CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - The Chris Long-led Cavaliers set the standard at UVA in 2007, by recording a program record 43 sacks.
The St. Anne’s-Belfield alum had 14 sacks all by himself.
Long won the Hendricks Award that year, as the top-defensive end in the nation, and finished in the Top Ten in the Heisman Trophy voting.
The Virginia defense broke the record set by the 2007 squad last season, as the Wahoos tallied 46 sacks, but unlike Long’s year, a majority of the sacks came from the linebackers.
Outside linebackers Charles Snowden (5.0), Noah Taylor (7.0), and Matt Gahm (1.5) combined for 13.5 sacks in 2019.
“They did good, but they can be great," says UVA co-defensive coordinator Kelly Poppinga. "They could totally dominate the edge in the ACC.”
Noah Taylor played all over the field for the 'Hoos last year, lining up at linebacker, in the secondary, and in a hybrid position, and he reminds head coach Bronco Mendenhall of an NFL Hall of Famer.
“When I was at the University of New Mexico, we used Brian Urlacher in a similar capacity as how we use Noah," says Mendenhall. "We have a saying here, ‘The more you can do, the more you can do, and the more you can do, the more valuable you are.’ Noah is capable of the retention, and the learning, and the assignment volume of playing multiple spots.”
Poppinga adds, “I don’t know if I’ve ever been around a kid who loves football as much as Noah. He loves, loves football. He’s always wanting to work out. He’s always wanting to watch film. He’s always wanting to talk football. He’s always texting me, calling me, wanting to do Zoom calls to watch film with him. That just shows the commitment this kid has, and the passion he has for the game, which I love.”
Taylor made ten starts as a sophomore last season.
He led the team with 13.5 tackles for a loss, and was second in both sacks (7.0) and interceptions (2).
Co-defensive coordinator Kelly Poppinga has even higher expectations for next season.
“I’m proud of what he’s done up to this point, but I know there’s a lot more in him," says Poppinga. "He’s gotten bigger. He’s gotten stronger, which I think held him back from making more plays last season. With that size and with that strength, and getting him in the pads, hopefully here in August, I’m really anxious to see what that extra size and strength does for his game.”
Virginia is scheduled to kick off the season on September 7th against Georgia in Atlanta.