In less than two weeks, the Virginia football team will open up fall camp, and the Cavalier team taking the field will be very different than the one that finished the 2012 season 4-8.
In an offseason full of change, the UVa defense lost players to graduation, ineligibility, and transfer. The changes started at the top, with new defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta replacing Jim Reid, who was fired in December.
In January, Chris Brathwaite, who had just finished his sophomore season, was declared ineligible. Brathwaite appeared in all 12 games in 2012 and finished the season leading all UVa defensive tackles with 41 total tackles.
Then the 'Hoos defense took another hit to its depth, when fifth-year senior defensive tackle Justin Renfrow left the program following his graduation from the university.
"Those were two valuable guys to our team, you know two big players, guys that have experience and had played before," Senior defensive end Jake Snyder said of the losses of Brathwaite and Renfrow. "They're tough to replace. At the same time, we've always had a "next man up" mentality around here.
"One guy goes down, the next one steps up, and that's exactly what we're going to do. We've got plenty of guys that can play, plenty of talented guys, and guys that have the experience and have played before."
Snyder, who is one of only three seniors in the Cavaliers' defensive unit, believes a couple of sophomores are poised to make a big impact this season.
"Eli Harold and Mike Moore are both going to have big years this year," he said.
Both sophomores appeared in all 12 games for the Cavaliers in 2012. Harold recorded 36 total tackles in his freshmen season, including 7 tackles for a loss, while Moore finished his first year with 14 total tackles.
"They kind of had some growing pains, a learning process last year of what college football really was, and now they got it," added Snyder. "They're confident, they're going to be able to play fast without thinking, and that's an exciting thing for them."
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