“Ginormous” Jowon Briggs wows Virginia defensive coaches in videoconference meeting

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Jowon Briggs

Jowon Briggs

There was no disguising Kelly Poppinga’s enthusiasm about talking to Virginia nose tackle Jowon Briggs during a recent videoconference.

Poppinga, the Cavaliers’ co-defensive coordinator, was extremely excited about the rising sophomore’s physical appearance during their long-distance meeting.

“Wow, Jowon looks great right now,” Poppinga said. “Last season he lost a lot of weight. He got below 290 into the 280s. Man, he’s like 310 right now and he just looks massive.

“We were talking about that during the defensive staff meeting this morning, and holy smokes, this guy is looking ginormous.”

Briggs was imposing enough at 290 during his true-freshman season in 2019 when he played in 13 of Virginia’s 14 games, including seven starting assignments. He was everything as advertised coming out of high school in Cincinnati.

Not only did Briggs come to UVA for football, but also for the education that he would receive and for the all-around student life. A physics major who is considering a second major in music, Briggs is a well-rounded individual who sings and plays multiple musical instruments including cello, violin, flute, sax, guitar, drums and piano.

In fact, he was temporarily stuck in London earlier in the year when the Covid-19 pandemic began to spread. He and a UVA a cappella group named Hullabahoos had performed there when travel bans were imposed.

Briggs uses not only his physical strength but his mental strength to make him a better football player, something that Poppinga and the Cavaliers’ defensive coaching staff are looking forward to in terms of seeing the growth.

“He’s very strong, very cerebral, a very smart kid,” Poppinga said. “That game experience for him last year is very valuable for him going into this season. What it really comes down to is he’s going to have to make a lot more plays. That’s his bottom line … he’s got to make more plays.”

Last season, Briggs made 19 total tackles (tied for 17th on the team), including three tackles for loss and one sack.

“He’s going to [make more plays] based upon him knowing the defense better than what he knew last year, which is for sure going to happen. The things we asked him to do, he responds quickly with confidence,” Poppinga said.

“I have no doubt he’s going to make major strides this year,” the coach said. “I think he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with on that front line for us this coming season.”

Consider that Virginia returns six of its top seven defensive lineman from the Orange Bowl depth chart, including ends Richard Burney (a sixth year), Aaron Faumui, Tommy Christ and Mandy Alonso at end positions, along with Briggs and Jordan Redmond in the middle of Bronco Mendenhall’s 3-4 scheme.

A strong defensive line makes the aggressive 3-4 style even more dangerous, and it all begins with a solid nose tackle, which should be a snap for Briggs in the middle.

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