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UVa Linebackers Looking to Lead on Defense

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UVa fifth year junior linebacker Malcolm Cook UVa fifth year junior linebacker Malcolm Cook
Junior linebacker Chris Peace Junior linebacker Chris Peace
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) -

The Virginia football team struggled on defense last season.

The Cavaliers were 12th in the ACC in both scoring defense and total defense, giving up 34 points and over 446 yards per game.

Seniors Micah Kiser and Quin Blanding finished 1-2 in the league in tackles last season, but the Wahoos also had a lot of first-time starters in their first season under Bronco Mendenhall.

Virginia will have eight starters returning in Mendenhall's second season with the team, including junior linebacker Chris Peace, who was third on the team in tackles-for-a-loss last season.

Former FUMA star Malcolm Cook says, "I think the front seven is much improved.  Everybody has experience.  Everybody knows the plays, and we know what we're doing now.  We've been together, so it's not like this is the first time.     

Peace says, "Me and (Cook) got a little chemistry going where we can just look at each other when we get the play and we know which side we're going to play. Both of us know how to play Will and Sam, so when the offense goes hurry up we can just play sides of the ball. Him, he just makes a lot of things easier."

Cook was expected to be a starter for the 'Hoos last year, but missed the entire season due to myocarditis, a disease marked by inflammation of and damage to the heart muscle.

"I can do a lot," says Cook.  "I'm rushing the passer, covering small tight ends, I'm covering slot receivers, backs, so you know I just got to be able to play football and I've got to be able to clear my mind and do what I do best."

Peace adds, "Practice, practice, and more practice.  Just all the fundamentals that coach Kelly Poppinga teaches us.  We just emphasize that on a daily basis.  A lot of film work too."

The Cavaliers open the season at home against William & Mary on September 2nd.