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Sabrina Schaeffer|The Daily Progress
University of Virginia player Eli Harold talks to the press during media day held at John Paul Jones Arena Friday.
Saturday, August 3, 2013
CHARLOTTESVILLE — In Mike London’s first three seasons as Virginia’s football coach, the Cavaliers ranked 88th, 90th and 98th in the Football Bowl Subdivision in quarterback sacks.
Jon Tenuta’s record would suggest he can change that.
Over the same three seasons, Tenuta was the linebackers coach and then the assistant coach for defense at N.C. State. The Wolfpack was fourth, eighth and 27th in sacks over the same time period.
State registered 114 sacks in three years, compared to the Cavaliers’ 56.
“So many times, offensively, they set up schemes and systems so they can dictate to you what you do,” said London, the defensive coordinator of UVa’s 2007 Gator Bowl team.
“It’s always refreshing to have a defense that can dictate what you want [the offense] to do.”
London thinks he has that with Tenuta, who said he doesn’t have a target number for sacks.
“You go into a game and you want to get as many sacks as you can,” Tenuta said Friday at UVa’s preseason media day, “but you also want tackles for losses, too.
“You want to make the offense have negative plays, so you have a second down-and-long or a third-down and long.”
The UVa pass-rusher with the biggest upside is top-rated 2011 signee Eli Harold, up to 235 pounds from his freshman reporting weight of 220. Harold had one solo sack and two shared sacks in 2012.
“Coach Evan [Marcus] has us in that weight room every day and I love it, man,” Harold said. “I just want to build my body up to take the beating. Everybody says I’m too small and this and that. It just fuels my fire.
“I’m not small. I’m a very strong guy. All my numbers in the weight room have gone up tremendously. I’m ready to show the world what I can do.”
Harold was under the mistaken impression that the Cavaliers had 13 sacks as a team, not 17, in 2012.
“We will have well over 13 sacks this season,” Harold said.
The Cavaliers’ defensive coordinator last year was Jim Reid, now at Iowa, and Harold’s position coach was Jeff Hanson, now at James Madison.”
Both were dismissed following the Cavaliers’ 4-8 season.
“I was really hurt when coach Reid left,” Harold said. “I love coach Tenuta, but when he first came, he kind of scared me. I went to coach [Anthony Poindexter] and said, ‘Dex, I don’t know if I can play for him.’
“He was in my ear all the time, cursing at me and busting me up. But that’s how it should be. He’s a great teacher, so I’m going to follow his lead.”
Earlier this summer, Harold was at his high school, Ocean Lakes in Virginia Beach, for a showcase that was attended by UVa assistants Tom O’Brien and Chip West.
“Coach O’Brien came over and whispered in my ear,” Harold said. “He was like, ‘Man, coach Tenuta’s the best thing that’s happened to you since you’ve been here.’ ”
Harold didn’t disagree.
London said that new special-teams coordinator Larry Lewis will have “carte blanche,” meaning that Virginia might be using more offensive and defensive players in the kicking game this coming season.
“I would love to play on the kickoff team,” said Harold, whose sole special-teams assignment last year was on the kick-block team. “I love hitting people. Why not?”
Sims a factor
Quarterback Phillip Sims has transferred to Winston-Salem State after starting four games last season, but the Cavaliers still have Dylan Sims, a redshirt freshman place-kicker from Jefferson Forest High School in Bedford County.
Drew Jarrett and then-freshman Ian Frye shared kicking duties in 2012. With Jarrett not returning for a fifth year, Lewis said the race has come down to Frye, Sims and R.C. Willenbrock, who graduated from Dartmouth with an extra season of eligibility.
“It’s going to be a heckuva competition,” Lewis said. “I thought Dylan Sims finished up really, really well. I thought Ian started better and then didn’t finish as well. I think there’s some consistency that we need from all of those guys.”
London confirmed that 6-foot, 215-pound LaChaston Smith, who played linebacker in the spring, has moved to running back. Smith enrolled in January after early graduation from South Iredell High School in Statesboro, N.Y., where he had a record seven touchdowns in a first-round state playoff game.
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