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Jim Reid once favored the 3-4 defensive alignment over the 4-3 scheme Virginia will employ this season

Virginia Defensive Coordinator Jim Reid can relate to the shift his players have undergone in recent months. He, too, once was forced to convert from a 3-4 base defensive alignment to a 4-3 defense.

In 1994, Reid met with then-Boston College Coach Dan Henning to discuss the team’s vacant defensive coordinator position. Henning asked Reid if he’d ever coached stack defense (the 4-3 alignment) before. To that point in his career, Reid always had favored 3-4 schemes and so he replied, “No sir, I never did.”

Henning and Reid continued to talk and finally Henning offered Reid the job. Reid, a native of Medford, Mass., was elated.

“And then in the first staff meeting (Henning) was firing everybody up and he said we’re going to be a great zone team, a sharp passing team, and Jimmy, we’re going to have the greatest stack defense in America,” Reid recalled on Wednesday.

Reid suddenly grew very nervous. Hadn’t Henning heard him when he told Henning he’d never coached stack defense before? Reid tried to tell Henning there had been a misunderstanding and that he would resign and go back to being the defensive coordinator at Richmond, where he’d spent the two previous seasons.

“And then he gave me a plane ticket, and he said, ‘No, no. Just go see these guys. I’ve got it all set,’” Reid said. “And it was Dennis Green and Tony Dungy. That was a good couple of guys to learn from. From then on, a 4-3, or a stack, has been a part of the defensive package wherever I’ve been except for the last two years when I was Miami,” as the outside linebackers coach.

Over the past 16 years, Reid has become quite familiar with exactly what skill sets are necessary at each position in a 4-3 defense. Under former Virginia Coach Al Groh, the Cavaliers utilized a 3-4 scheme. Now that first-year Coach Mike London has taken over the program and put Reid in charge of running the defense, the team is shifting to a 4-3 alignment.

“What you want is some defensive ends that can run,” Reid said. “Outside linebackers usually make that transition (from a 3-4 alignment) pretty well. Inside linebackers now, rather than having to take guards on in the two gap, which is a very sound technique that a lot of people use, now it depends a little bit more on speed and quickness.”

By Steve Yanda  |  August 5, 2010; 2:05 PM ET
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Next: Anthony Poindexter: Coaching stability, new 4-3 defensive scheme aid Virginia's recruiting efforts

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