Rudzinski brings fundamental philosophy to Cavalier defense

By Kenneth Cross correspondent

Photo: UVA Athletics

Virginia football may have bottomed out defensively in last season’s campaign, but the addition of former Air Force defensive coordinator John Rudzinski could help the team to defensively start its climb in a systematic and more aggressive manner.

The Air Force defense was ranked fourth in the nation last season as it held opponents to 296.7 rushing yards as rushing attacks only found 102 yards per night.

Rudzinski, who had been on the Air Force staff for 14 seasons, had a solid pass defense in the Mountain West Conference as opponents only found 194.4 passing yards per game while the Falcons totaled 35 sacks.

The veteran coach has a solid philosophy on how to evaluate a position from season to season.

“I think you are always learning a little bit about the defense and then you are always trying to match the defense with who you have personnel-wise, so it’s always evolving every year,” he explained.

It’s been discussed ad nauseam, but Virginia posted massive struggles defensively as the Cavaliers were 121st in the nation in total defense as they gave up 466 yards with 225 yards rushing per game.

“I think, every year, what you do is with a new defensive unit you have got to take a step back and say, ‘Hey, what do we have to do in order to play great defense,’” noted Rudzinski. “We have got to see guys finishing on the football and we have got to see guys tackling at a really high level.”

Fundamentals and the potential for the execution are once again going to be important in Virginia’s defensive scheme and this will highlight tackling and block distraction.

Rudzinski and his colleagues will be looking at major decisions on personnel in Wednesday’s meetings. The Cavaliers’ defensive coordinator explained that these would be a primary key in revisiting the game plan for Richmond, who visits next Saturday.

“You try to say to keep it pretty simple and still try to make sure we do a good job fundamentally of putting guys in positions where they can work the fundamentals,” said Rudzinski. “That translates to us being able to play good structured defense as we implement our schemes.”

In addition, Rudzinski will be the defensive backs coach as he will try to bring together a group that gave up 253.9 passing yards per game, 95th in college football.

“Body types end up being a little bit different, but as a DB coach, it is fun to see those guys compete in space vs. super skilled receivers like we will see,” said Rudzinski.

The new defensive coordinator is looking for his defensive players to embrace block destruction tackling and win one-on-one matchups in coverage.

“There is always those ups and those downs. I think as a coach and as a man, we gravitate to people who are super consistent, who can look at it from a little high level perspective and say, ‘OK how can we learn from this experience and how can we push forward?’”