Virginia Preview 2006 - Defense
Virginia Cavaliers
Posted Jul 31, 2006

Virginia Cavaliers Preview 2006 - Cavalier Defense

What you need to know ... Virginia's defense was a disappointment last year, but things might start to turn around this season with the potential for a huge 2007. It's a young group with only one senior on the projected two deep and several sophomores needing to go from being wet-behind-the-ears first year players to seasoned veterans. By design, the 3-4 will get dinked and dunked on to death, but that only works if turnovers are forced and stops are made on third downs. That could be a problem. The front three is average at best outside of end Chris Long, while the linebacking corps needs at least half the season before it gets humming. Corner Marcus Hamilton leads a promising secondary.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Marcus Hamilton, 63
Sacks: Chris Sintim, 3
Interceptions: Marcus Hamilton 5

Star of the defense: Senior CB Marcus Hamilton
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior NT Allen Billyk
Unsung star on the rise: Junior S Jamaal Jackson
Best pro prospect: Hamilton
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Hamilton, 2) DE Chris Long, 3) LB Clint Sintim
Strength of the defense: Athletic youth, cornerback
Weakness of the defense:

Defensive Line
This could be a problem early on unless several young players quickly realize their potential. Chris Long is on the verge of stardom after a fantastic Music City Bowl and a better spring, but he needs help around him. Sophomore Alex Field and redshirt freshman Jeffrey Fitzgerald will take their lumps early on the other side, while versatile Allen Billyk has to produce wherever he ends up playing.
The key to the unit: Get in the backfield. Virginia finished 11th in the ACC in both sacks and tackles for loss, and now the line has to replace two starters.

Defensive Line Rating: 6

Projected Starters
- DE Chris Long, Jr. - 46 tackles, 1 sack, 10 TFL, 7 broken up passes, 26 quarterback hurries
Long turned into a top producer on the line with enough quickness to be a presence in the backfield and the strength to be a good tackler against the run. While not a pure pass rusher, the 278-pound junior is good at pressuring the quarterback thanks to a great motor, as evidenced by a brilliant performance against Minnesota in the Music City Bowl. Expect an All-ACC season.

- NT Allen Billyk, Jr. - 8 tackles
Mostly a defensive end so far, the 6-4, 278-pound junior will be an undersized main man on the nose while also spending a little bit of time on the outside. With a good attitude and a desire to simply play where needed, he'll be a versatile performer who may become invaluable.

- DE Alex Field, Soph. - 2 tackles
A great tight end prospect coming out of high school, the 6-7, 261-pound sophomore is now expected to grow into a major factor on the end. Athleticism isn't an issue and he should grow into a solid pass rusher, but consistency will be the key early on. He'll have to battle with Jeffrey Fitzgerald to hold down a starting spot.

Top Backups
- NT Keenan Carter, Jr. - 25 tackles, 1 broken up pass
At 307 pounds, Carter is a big run clogger in the middle of the line bringing some much needed bulk to the front three. He wasn't able to stay healthy last year with a variety of issues, but when he's right, he can be a major force.
- DE Jason Fuller, RFr.
Originally a linebacker, the 6-5, 230-pound fuller will play on the line to add more speed and athleticism to the mix. He's a smart, strong players who should handle himself well in the rotation behind Chris Long.
- DE Jeffrey Fitzgerald, RFr.
A great looking young prospect, the 6-3, 261-pound Fitzgerald has the potential to blossom into a great all-around end once he gets a little bit of work. He's not just big, he's athletic with the quickness to camp out in opposing backfields.

The losses are bigger in name than in production. On the surface, the departure of Ahmad Brooks might seem painful, but it might be addition by subtraction considering the overall negative effect he had on the team over the last two seasons. Replacing Kai Parham will be the bigger problem needing to hope for several players to be just as disruptive. Clint Sintim is a great young player to build around, while Jermaine Dias is a versatile veteran who should be in for a solid season. The addition of Olu Hall after years of academic issues will be a huge boost.
The key to the unit: Be steady. This is too young a group to ask to carry the entire defense, but all the sophomores and all the promising talents have to be solid from one game to the next.
Linebacker Rating: 7

Projected Starters
- Jermaine Dias, Jr. - 21 tackles, 1 sack
Able to play inside or out, the 235-pound junior is back after seeing starting time throughout last year despite missing part of the year with a foot injury. He has the speed and quickness to be better against the pass, but his job will be to get in the backfield and be an all-around disruptive force.

- Jon Copper, Soph. - 10 tackles
The former walk-on will get one of the first looks on the inside. While he's not going to fly all around the field and is only 6-0 and 226 pounds, he's tough and showed this spring that he knows the defense. He'll also be used on special teams.

- Antonio Appleby, Soph. - 27 tackles, 1 TFL
Appearing to be on the verge of a big season, the 6-4, 244-pound true sophomore will have to be one of the new stars of the defense. He stepped in last year when Ahmad Brooks was out and proved he could handle himself against the run. His ability to get into the backfield could mean the difference between a good and a great year for the linebacking corps.

- Clint Sintim, Soph. - 53 tackles, 3 sacks, 9 TFL
One of the few sure things in the linebacking corps, Sintim will start on the outside after finishing fifth on the team in tackles. He was surprisingly steady as a redshirt freshman despite trying to figure out what he was doing. Now the 6-3, 242 pounder will have to be a leader and play like a seasoned veteran.

Top Backups
- Olu Hall, Soph.
Finally, finally, finally, Hall appears ready to be a major part of the Virginia defense. A superstar recruit a few years ago, he had a hard time qualifying academically and ended up going to Hargrave Military Academy. Despite missing spring ball to further work on his studies, the 6-3, 228-pound sophomore will be a big part of the starting mix early on with too mush speed and talent to be kept on the sidelines.
- Aaron Clark, Soph. - 10 tackles
Originally considered to be a defense end, the 6-5, 234-pound sophomore appears to be a better fit for the defense. He's a good athlete with nice range and enough talent to grow into a role at either outside position.
- Marvin Richardson, Jr. - 2 tackles
Purely a special teamer so far, Richardson should finally be a part of the defense playing on the outside behind Clint Sintim. One of the team's most athletic linebackers, the 6-3, 236-pound sophomore will find time.

Defensive Backs
Virginia's secondary should be one of the team's strengths early on. Corner Marcus Hamilton has All-America ability and will be a first day draft pick next season, while there's great promise on the other side with Chris Gorham and Vic Hall combining to form a dangerous tandem. The safeties should be strong in time once Jamaal Jackson grows into a starting role and after true freshman Rico Hall figures out what he's doing.
The key to the unit: Be tighter. To be fair, the secondary didn't get much help from the pass rush last year, but it has to be better than 11th in the ACC in pass defense. Making more stops on third downs would be nice.
Secondary Rating: 7

Projected Starters
- CB Marcus Hamilton, Sr. - 63 tackles, 5 TFL, 6 interceptions, 7 broken up passes
One of the ACC's best overall corners, Hamilton has 146 career tackles and 15 broken up passes with ten interceptions in the last two years. He was a Second Team All-ACC performer last season who finished third on the team in stops and grew into a rock-solid cover corner highlighted by a shutdown performance against Georgia Tech's Calvin Johnson.

- S Byron Glaspy, Soph. - 20 tackles, 1 TFL
Virginia's version of Rudy, Glaspy was just a regular student who ended up walking on to the team and now will hold down a starting safety spot. He's a smart, tough defender who finds ways to make plays on defense as well as on special teams.

- S Jamaal Jackson, Jr. - 43 tackles
The 6-3, 214-pound junior has the size to be an intimidating hitter and has enough experience to be a quality starter. He spent the last two years as a reserve, but he played like a number one performer making plenty of big tackles. Run support won't be a problem; he has to prove he can be consistent against the pass.

- CB Chris Gorham, Jr. - 42 tackles, 1 TFL, 2 interception, 3 broken up passes
The 6-0, 188-pound junior has worked hard on being an improved tackler as well as a stronger performer when the ball is in the air. He's a fantastic athlete who started in eight games last season, but he'll have a huge battle on his hands trying to hold off Vic Hall.

Top Backups
- CB
Vic Hall, RFr.
While he set all sorts of records as a star quarterback for Gretna Senior High in Virginia throwing for a state record 8,731 yards and 104 touchdowns while running for 4,039 yards and 66 scores, his potential NFL future is at corner. He's 5-9 and 175 pounds with tremendous athleticism
and quickness, but he's going to need time to grow into a job.
CB Mike Brown, Soph.
Brown has enough speed to become a big factor as a nickel back and a key reserve behind Marcus Hamilton. He'll have to work on being physical despite checking in at 5-9 and 173 pounds, but his speed will make up for most problems.
- S
Ryan Best, Jr. - 14 tackles
Best came to Virginia to play soccer and ended up joining the football team a few years ago. He saw most of his action on special teams and in nickel packages, and he showed enough promise to potentially be a key factor in the safety rotation behind Byron Glaspy.
- S Rico Hall, Fr.
One of the team's star recruits this year, Hall is a huge hitter with the skills to play corner or safety. While he's not huge, he pops like a linebacker and should quickly find playing time at one of the safety spots.

Special Teams
Chris Gould will get all the kicking responsibilities early on until he proves he can handle replacing all-star PK Connor Hughes. If that works out, then Ryan Weigand will take over the punting chores to try to add more pop to the production. Cedric Peerman is an elite kickoff returner who averaged 25.8 yards per try last year, but there needs to be more from the punt return game with Michael Johnson playing more of a role.

The key to the unit: Outside of the return game, all the unknowns have to be settled early on.
Special Teams Rating: 6

Projected Starters
- PK/P Chris Gould, Jr. 53 punts, 2,122 yards, 40 yards per kick, 11 inside the 20
Gould has been a decent punter over the last two seasons, but nothing spectacular. He won't hurt the team in any way as a punter as long as he doesn't have problems with also being tried out as the replacement for placekicker Connor Hughes. He has a good leg and should have decent range.

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Virginia Preview 2006 - Depth Chart
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Virginia Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
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Virginia Preview 2006 - Offense
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