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New defensive staff at Virginia sharing knowledge, getting reps

john rudzinski
Virginia defensive coordinator John Rudzinski. Photo courtesy UVA Athletics.

The defensive brain trust under former Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall had been around together for what seemed like forever, and we saw how that worked out the past couple of years.

The familiarity didn’t breed success. The UVA defense ranked 13th in the ACC in total defense a year ago, and was dead last in the league, and in the bottom eight nationally, against the run.

New coach Tony Elliott didn’t come up from Clemson with the core of a staff that had worked together for years.

Could it be an advantage having guys who aren’t from the same system and philosophical point of view sharing what they’ve learned from different points of view football-wise?

“I think this is super interesting about this staff is, truly it’s not, we didn’t pick up a staff from a previous stop and come here to Charlottesville. Frankly, there’s guys that have really never worked together. And so, it’s been a great opportunity for each of us to get to know each other, not only personally, but also professionally, and something that was previously assumed in a different organization is no longer the same,” new defensive coordinator John Rudzinski said.

It’s also almost certainly helping things out going up against an offense that isn’t one-dimensional in practice every day.

The UVA attack under the previous offensive coordinator, Robert Anae, lined up to pass on more than 70 percent of its snaps last season.

That has to be a factor as to why the UVA defense was so poor against the run – that the D didn’t get the reps against the run it needed in practice situations.

Rudzinski had a similar problem at his previous stop, Air Force, which led the nation in rushing attempts in 2021, averaging 64.2 per game.

Virginia was third nationally in pass attempts per game, averaging 46.1.

“What’s been really unique for me is obviously going against a multiple offense, a truly pro-style offense, gives me the chance in the spring to evolve, as far as creating some good answers for some good offensive schemes that Des (Kitchings, the new offensive coordinator) has put on the field,” Rudzinski said.

“I think it has been something whereas, in my previous stops, I saw a little bit different offensive scheme, that was really super run-dominant. To be able to see the ball thrown around a little bit more, and then also to teach some of those different fundamentals, has been good for us, and it’s something that needs to continually evolve to, number one, our personnel, and then also to what we feel like we can execute,” Rudzinski said.

Story by Chris Graham

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