Virginia defensive line coach So’oto headed to USC

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Photo: UVA Athletics

According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, Virginia defensive line coach Vic So’oto is going home.

So’oto, who has been a full-time assistant for the past three years in Bronco Mendenhall’s system, has apparently been hired for the same position in Southern Cal’s revamped defense. The 32-year-old So’oto was a graduate assistant for Mendenhall until he was promoted in 2017.

He will be joining a completely new USC defensive staff led by new coordinator Todd Orlando, who replaced Clany Pendergast, fired after the Trojans’ 42-29 loss to Iowa in the Holiday Bowl. Southern Cal also hired new secondary coaches, Craig Naivar (safeties), who worked with Orlando at Texas and Houston, and cornerbacks coach Donte Williams.

So’oto will be taking over a 3-4 defensive front that features one of the nation’s top pass rushers, Drake Jackson, and a pair of defensive tackles that are projected as future NFL players in Marlon Tuipulotu and Jay Tufele. Jackson posted 11½ tackles for loss and 5½ sacks last season.

So’oto is a native of Oceanside, Calif., from where he went on to play tight end and linebacker for Mendenhall at BYU. He was a first-team All-Mountain West performer his final season. After a four-year stint as an NFL journeyman, he returned to BYU in 2015 as a project coordinator before joining Mendenhall’s staff at Virginia the following season.

The Cavaliers finished seventh nationally in quarterback sacks last season and were generally difficult to run against. 

It will be interesting to see how Mendenhall goes about replacing So’oto. The Virginia coach prefers to promote from within, and had four graduate assistant coaches last season: Jackson Matteo, C.J. Stalker, Kirk Garner and Drew Meyer.

He also has the option of hiring from outside of the Virginia system as he did with special-teams coordinator Ricky Brumfield, who came to Charlottesville from University of Texas-San Antonio.

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