January 2, 2013

Could This Man Save Virginia Football?

Consensus in the message board community is that Jon Tenuta will be the next defensive coordinator for the Virginia Cavaliers. Tenuta played defensive back at Virginia from 1979 to 1982 and has orchestrated some of the more aggressive and blitz-happy schemes seen in college football. Currently Tenuta serves as the Linebackers Coach and Associate Head Coach of the NC State Wolfpack, but with the dismissal of Tom O'Brien, he has become a free agent, and expect the news of his hiring at UVA to come down soon (NC State lost its bowl game yesterday).

Think of Tenuta's system and scheme as the exact polar opposite of Jim Reid's. Reid was conservative and focused on not having his players out of position to make plays, and relied heavily on the individual playmaking abilities of his players to generate turnovers. Conversely Tenuta's hyper-aggressive blitzing style forces quarterbacks into making rushed decisions. It's a style I didn't necessarily agree with, until Sunday that is.

Watching my beloved Redskins blitz and confuse Tony Romo on Sunday night made me realize what this scheme creates, and convinced me unequivocally that it will work here. And it's for the same reason that Coach Bennett succeeds on the basketball court. Tenuta brings a scheme that maximizes the abilities of the talent Virginia can be expected to get, and more importantly can raise the level of play. As Kendall loves to say, Coach Bennett's greatest skill is turning five fingers into a fist. Well Tenuta brings the sort of scheme that can do the same on the football field, and produce a defense greater than the sum of its parts.  Kendall Sez: Can it turn 11 fingers into two fists and a thumb?

A lot of the focus for defensive coordinators is to design confusing looks pre-snap in order to make the QB change to a specific play that the defense is designed to exploit. This relies heavily on having an entire roster of smart and talented players that can execute this complex scheme. Tenuta's defense is not that at all. This defense puts pressure on the QB to make decisions AFTER the snap, which is something I think 99% of college quarterbacks cannot consistently succeed at doing. The thought process is simple: bring more guys than the protection can block, and force the quarterback to think fast on his feet (or preferably, on his back). While we could get burned by quick hitters, or screen passes, the majority of the time we will see poor decisions made by the opposing QB. And those mistake will turn into TURNOVERS, something this defense has sorely lacked.

Another benefit of this scheme is the simplicity of it from a coaching and exectuion standpoint. For years, Virginia struggled to recruit for and execute the 3-4 defense. Finding and landing a nose tackle and outside linebackers that fit that scheme is next to impossible, especially at a non-marquee school like Virginia. Tenuta's defense is the exact opposite. Flashy, blitz-heavy, and fast this is the kind of defense kids want to play. Defensive ends can pin their ears back and go get the quarterback. Linebackers are given opportunities to have clean shots in the backfield to make huge plays. And defensive backs are given the opportunity to demonstrate their coverage prowess and ball hawk as the pressure gets to the opposing QB. It's a stat-padders dream. This is a scheme that players like Eli Harold will excel in, because pass rushing is his best attribute. It takes relieves the pressure of trying to not make mistakes because he has one job -- go get the QB.

This is the scheme that will work here. We have the depth on the defensive line to make it work, and the experience and talent in the secondary to make it great. Look for the big corner to be a mainstay of the Virginia secondary. Players like Maurice Canady and Tim Harris (both 6-2) will become the norm as jamming receivers at the line, and being able to bring the lumber, will be necessary for corners, while having safeties that can run down errant throws will lead to the tremendous success of players like Malcolm Cook and (hopefully) Quin Blanding. This is the defense that makes Virginia scary, and one we should all be excited about.

Now we just need to sit back and wait for the announcement of Tenuta being hired as our next defensive coordinator...

1 comment:

  1. Haha I was trying to think of something that had 11 that could turn into something bigger. Closest thing I could get was Honey Boo-Boo's sister's mutant 11 fingered child.