Now that Briggs is gone, who will take his place for Wahoos?

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Jowon Briggs

Jowon Briggs

In the true 3-4 alignment, the nose tackle is the most important player on the roster because everything is dependent upon the nose controlling the gaps to either side of the opposing center.

Jowon Briggs was great at that, good enough to have been named a freshman All-American last season. Good enough to have drawn raves from Bronco Mendenhall this season, about how very few opponents, including Clemson, had success running up the middle against Virginia.

Now that Briggs unexpectedly left the program, where does UVA defensive coordinator Nick Howell turn?

“We run the defense that we run,” Howell said Wednesday, a day after Briggs’ decision was made public. “It’s hard to change anything. Within the schemes we use, we’ll put the best people out there to run our schemes. Guys have to step up and new guys have to be in there and we will try to improve what we do.”

The Cavaliers were already a little shorthanded because of sixth-year defensive end Richard Burney having to close down his season a couple weeks ago due to undisclosed medical issues, and returning sophomore Aaron Faumui decided to opt out before the season for virus reasons.

Howell said he has some options in filling the void left by Briggs. One of those is freshman Jahmeer Carter, a 6-foot-2, 305-pound defensive lineman from Severn, Md. Carter is listed as Briggs’ backup at the spot, has played in all seven of UVA’s games this season and has posted 10 tackles, has half a sack and a quarterback hurry.

“Very confident in Jahmeer,” Howell said. “He’s a really good football player. He’s played a lot as a true freshman. He’s physical, moves laterally reall well and uses his hands well.”

Howell said that defensive end Mandy Alonso can slip into the nose if necessary and so can Jordan Redmond, and noted that there other guys who can play that position as well.

Replacing the skill of Briggs won’t be easy and he will certainly be missed.

“I was surprised, it took us off guard,” Howell said about Briggs’ sudden departure. “Our reaction to it is that we have to move on with the guys who are here. Like any situation, you just have to go and move on and do the best you can.”

The Cavaliers, who host nonconference Abilene Christian on Saturday afternoon, have been without some of their most experienced defensive backs for the past several games. One of those is safety Joey Blount, who was injured against Wake Forest on Oct. 17.

“Joey has been out there and progressing is all I can say,” Howell said. “When he gets back to full steam ahead, he’ll be ready to go.”

It would appear that Virginia won’t press for Blount’s return this week but rather allow him to have more recovery time for the home stretch against three ACC opponents, Florida State, Boston College and Virginia Tech.

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