Expect large defensive rotation to continue as Virginia's season progresses
Many players on the Virginia defense that had not consistently received a whole lot of snaps per game prior to Saturday night were given ample opportunities to showcase their skills against Eastern Michigan. And as the season wears on, Coach Mike London said Sunday, you can expect to see more of the same when it comes to a large Cavaliers defensive rotation.
Redshirt freshman defensive end Jake Snyder, junior safety Dom Joseph and senior safety Trey Womack were a few of the players who saw more playing time than usual Saturday. London's review of their respective performances were mostly positive, and it's likely they'll continue to see considerable playing time in future contests this season, in part because their presence on the field will afford some rest time for the unit's other contributors.
"At this point, everybody has the nicks and bruises to their bodies, and you've just got to be able to get more from other players," London said. "I can't expect (junior defensive end) Cam Johnson to play 80 snaps and then when it's a critical time in the game to all of the sudden come off the edge and pass rush and do a great job.
"I've got to be smart, and coaches, we have to be smart about, you know, at least sometime in the first quarter or the second quarter, maybe it's a coming out situation or maybe a sudden change situation to allow one of those other guys, a Dom Joseph, Trey Womack, Jake Snyder, guys like that to go in the game and give us a series, give us a couple reps. And then hopefully as you go into the game later on, the guys are pretty fresh."
London said that some teams have an entire second platoon of players that can be subbed into a game to give the starters a break. He doesn't yet have that luxury, though he's got a sizeable core of defensive reserves he apparently feels comfortable utilizing. That group includes Snyder, Womack, Joseph, senior defensive tackle John-Kevin Dolce, senior cornerback Mike Parker, sophomore linebacker Steve Greer and junior linebacker Aaron Taliaferro, who recently was moved out of the starting lineup.
When/if senior cornerback Ras-I Dowling becomes healthy enough to play, that group will grow by one, with either Dowling or sophomore cornerback Devin Wallace becoming another key reserve.
Depth is particularly important among the linebacking corps, as starters such as outside linebackers Ausar Walcott and LaRoy Reynolds also are members of special teams units. Fifth-year senior Darnell Carter replaced Taliaferro as the starting middle linebacker Saturday against Eastern Michigan, though London said Sunday the two players were "interchangeable." Taliaferro played at middle and outside linebacker Saturday, as did Carter.
Of Eastern Michigan's 54 offensive plays, Carter logged 47 snaps, Taliaferro tallied in the "high 20s" and Greer played "30-something" snaps, according to London.
"It's an opportunity to rotate these guys in and out," London said. "It's just an opportunity to get guys in there that can run."