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Improved Virginia pass rush trying to take advantage of 'strip-tackling' opportunities

Virginia might have recorded only one sack last week against Miami, but Defensive Line Coach Jeff Hanson was pleased with his unit's overall effort in rushing the Hurricanes' quarterbacks. According to Hanson, the members of the defensive line accounted for 10 hits and eight pressures combined on the three quarterbacks Miami used.

"And they were 10 solid hits," Hanson said Tuesday. "We disrupted those guys at times. If we're in their face and we're pressuring them and the ball comes out quick, there's not much we can do about that."

Hanson said that in the last couple of weeks he has felt Virginia's defensive line has been more "relentless" in its pass-rushing efforts. What Hanson would like to see more improvement on is the defensive linemen's ability to release off of blockers and to wrap up opposing quarterbacks when in their grasp.

His primary focal point of late has been working with the defensive linemen on "strip-tackling" the quarterback when such opportunities arise. Virginia is tied for No. 10 in the Atlantic Coast Conference in forced fumbles (five) and has not recorded a forced fumble in the past two games.

"We've had chances to strip-tackle the football on different occassions when the quarterback's ready to throw the football," Hanson said. "And that's something that we've been preaching and working on in practice, strip-tackling the quarterback when we have an opportunity to and knocking the ball out and creating more turnovers."

The play of one of Hanson's defensive linemen led directly to a Miami turnover last weekend. Defensive tackle John-Kevin Dolce smashed squarely into the chest of Miami quarterback Jacory Harris and drove Harris into the ground. Harris's pass attempt on that play was intercepted by cornerback Chase Minnifield. Harris suffered a concussion from the hit and did not return to the game.

"I'll tell you what, that was a vicious, vicious blow," Hanson said of Dolce's hit on Harris.

As for Virginia's next opponent, Duke, Hanson said the Cavaliers defensive line will need to be quick to the ball, given the Blue Devils preference to make short, quick passes. Using that formula, Duke quarterback Sean Renfree completed 28 of 30 passes last weekend in a victory over Navy.

"The big thing for us this weekend is (Renfree) will get rid of the ball quickly quite often," Hanson said. "We've got to basically get up the field quickly, get in his face, get ready to get our hands up and knock balls down. We've just got to be relentless this weekend."

By Steve Yanda  | November 3, 2010; 7:50 AM ET
Categories:  Football  
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