With Virginia redshirt junior Bill Schautz out for the remainder of the season after breaking two bones in his left leg late in Saturday’s 14-13 win at Florida State, a spot would seem to have opened up in the Cavaliers rotation at defensive end.
Though senior Cam Johnson and redshirt sophomore Jake Snyder start at defensive end for Virginia, Schautz and redshirt sophomore Brent Urban also alternated into games on a regular basis. Schautz, in fact, had tallied the second-most tackles (28) among the team’s four primary defensive ends.
Virginia Coach Mike London said Wednesday that Urban “may take more reps than he has in the past,” but that the void left by Schautz’s absence also will be filled by true freshman defensive end Thompson Brown taking on a larger role.
Brown, as you may remember, applied considerable pressure to Miami quarterback Stephen Morris on the final play of Virginia’s 28-21 road win Oct. 28 against the Hurricanes. Brown has tallied four tackles on the season, though he was listed on the team’s official injury report prior to the Nov. 12 game against Duke with a “medical” issue and has not played in either of the past two games.
As for Urban — who is listed at 6-foot-7 and 280 pounds — London said the player one day might outgrow the defensive end position and move inside to defensive tackle. But for now, London likes the athleticism and versatility Urban provides the Cavaliers on the edge of the defensive line. Urban has recorded seven tackles on the season.
“If you look at his body frame and type right now, once [strength and conditioning coach] Evan [Marcus] gets done with him, he’s going to be as big as a house,” London said. “And I mean that in a good way, though.”
Regardless of whether Brown or Urban receive more reps or whether Johnson and Snyder simply end up playing more snaps, Virginia’s pass rushers will need to apply pressure on Virginia Tech redshirt sophomore Logan Thomas. The Hokies’ offensive line has been among the best units in the ACC in limiting sacks (12) this season, and at 6-foot-6 and 254 pounds, Thomas will not be an easy target to bring down.
Led by Johnson with four, Virginia has recorded 18 sacks, which ranks ninth in the ACC. Schautz (two) was the only Cavaliers defensive end other than Johnson who had tallied more than one sack this season.