Virginia DC Jim Reid: 'Big plays have done us in'
In the 19 scoring drives that the Virginia defense has allowed during the past three games, opponents have needed an average of 7.4 plays to either reach the end zone or kick the ball through the uprights.
So when Virginia Defensive Coordinator Jim Reid says, "Big plays have done us in. It hasn’t been 14-play drives, 18-play drives," he certainly has a point. On 11 of those 19 scoring drives, the Cavaliers defense gave up one play of 25 or more yards.
Missed tackles have been an issue, though Reid said Friday that the results of the plays during which Virginia defenders have missed tackles have amplified the apparent commonality of the miscue.
"If you take a look at our games, I’ve been really proud of our tackling in almost every instance," Reid said. "But the tackles that we’ve missed have just been dramatic in terms of the result against us. I love the way our players practice. I love the intensity that they play the game with. I think we’re fast with our reads. And I think if you look at all tape with all teams, there’s going to be a missed coverage here, a missed tackle here. It just seems that when we miss a tackle, the result is just a dramatic result negative against us."
Reid said the defense's struggles have stemmed more from breakdowns in fundamental aspects of the game, something for which he claimed responsibility. Last Saturday against North Carolina, the Cavaliers ceded 339 passing yards, including pass completions of 42, 46, 54 and 81 yards. That 81-yard pass turned into a touchdown on the game's first play from scrimmage.
"I’m not trying to be wise; I’m not trying to minimize anything," Reid said. "But what hurt us last Saturday night were some really basic fundamentals in terms of tackling and reading coverages and the detail of it. And really, that’s what’s happened to us … If we’re going to become a good team this year, it all goes back to real good, sound, basic fundamentals. And it’s my job as the defensive coordinator to make sure that we have the appropriate time, the appropriate drill sessions to take care of those basic fundamentals.
"So when I talk about anything that we need to improve on, the first thing I do is I talk as if I’m looking in a mirror because I have to make sure that that gets done. I like our players. The players are flying around on the football field. There’s no loafing. There’s no effort or energy issues. We’ve just got to take care of some basic fundamentals and basic reads, and you just have to keep working on that."
The Virginia defense needs more consistency out of each player, according to Reid. And in an effort to better facilitate such consistency, the Cavaliers made a few personnel adjustments in the linebacker rotation this week at practice. Redshirt junior Darnell Carter is expected to start at middle linebacker, though Reid noted he spent time at each of the linebacking positions this week.
Redshirt junior Aaron Taliaferro -- formerly the starter at middle linebacker -- now will play strong-side linebacker as a reserve for sophomore starter LaRoy Reynolds, the team's leading tackler.
"The idea is to get everybody some opportunities at different positions and to get reps," Reid said. "It’s not like we’re searching for combinations. It’s just that as we progress in this, you’re always looking for players to be versatile, and we’re just moving Aaron around."
Reid also noted that sophomore reserve middle linebacker Steve Greer "is playing really well." Carter and Greer have "a little bit of bulk about" them, Reid said. Carter is listed 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds. Greer is listed at 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds. Taliaferro is listed at 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds.
Taliaferro "seems to have picked (playing strong-side linebacker) up very well," Reid said. "And if you understand the scheme, it really doesn’t make any difference really which linebacker position you play. We have a little bit of extra heft in the middle (with Carter), which can help us a little bit."
Virginia's various defensive deficiencies have revealed themselves primarily out of the game this season. Through six games*, the Cavaliers have given up 98 points combined in the first half and 50 points combined in the second half.
* The quarter-by-quarter breakdown of combined points allowed by Virginia through six games looks like this: 1st quarter -- 44 points, 2nd quarter -- 54 points, 3rd quarter -- 34 points, 4th quarter -- 16 points.
In the past three games, part of the reason why the second-half points allowed total dropped off was because the opposing offenses took their feet off the gas pedal a bit. Virginia has lost its last three games by a combined margin of 66 points.
"It’s about reps and trying to stay fresh in the fourth quarter," Reid said. "We’re trying to bring people to the fourth quarter, you know? At the beginning of the year, the goal was to hold people and make sure they didn’t score in the fourth quarter. We’ve got to make sure that we don’t give up too many points in the first half, as well."
| October 23, 2010; 6:05 AM ET
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