Elliott hires Air Force’s John Rudzinski to lead Virginia’s defense

By Jerry Ratcliffe

John Rudzinski

John Rudzinski (Photo: UVA Athletics)

Tony Elliott finally has a defensive coordinator for his new Virginia football staff.

John Rudzinski, who led Air Force to the No. 4 national ranking in total defense, is the Cavaliers’ new defensive boss. Rudzinski has been the Falcons’ defensive coordinator since 2018, but has been on staff since 2010. He is a 2006 Air Force grad.

He has spent the majority of his coaching career at his alma mater and has built one of the nation’s most respected defensive units at Air Force.

Rudzinski’s most recent defense gained the No. 4 total defense ranking by giving up a mere 296.5 yards per game. In 2020, the Falcons defense surrendered 15.0 points per game (third-best nationally), which was the best scoring defense by Air Force since 1997. His 2019 defense helped the Falcons finish 11-2 and earned a No. 21 national ranking.

Air Force went 10-3 this past season, beating Louisville in the First Responder Bowl.

After playing linebacker for the Falcons (2002-05), Rudzinski stayed on as a graduate assistant in 2006. His first job was as a defensive coach for First Baptist School in South Carolina from 2007-09, before heading back to Colorado Springs as a defensive assistant for Air Force from 2010-11. He was the Academy’s recruiting coordinator from 2012-2014, outside linebackers coach from 2012-13 and defensive backs coach from 2014-2017.

This past season, in addition to posting one of the best total-defense numbers in the nation, Air Force was also ninth in rushing defense (102.2 ypg), 16th in scoring defense (19.8 ppg), 19th in passing yards allowed (194.4 ypg) and 28th in sacks (37), most by a Falcons’ defense in seven years.

Rudzinski was a key figure in developing All-American safety Weston Steelhammer, who ended his Air Force career as the leader in interceptions (18), ranking him second in Mountain West Conference history. 

He is a 2001 high school graduate from Notre Dame Academy in Green Bay, Wisc. Rudzinski is married to wife Lauren, and the couple has five children.


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