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Virginia Football Coaching Search: John Tenuta emerging as a defensive coordinator candidate

Former UVA alumnus would bring attacking style, more Division I experience to the Virginia defense.


It's been nearly a month since Mike London surprised the Virginia football fan community by announcing the firing of four Cavalier assistant coaches. While there were calls by many frustrated Virginia followers for staff changes, few predicted the wholesale housecleaning that occurred, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Since then, the biggest question has been who London would tap to replace former defensive coordinator Jim Reid.

As of this week, a top candidate has emerged. reports that NC State linebackers coach and UVA alum John Tenuta is a strong candidate to fill the position. Tenuta's current boss, former Virginia assistant Tom O'Brien, has been let go at NC State, and Tenuta will most likely be looking for a new place of employment following the Wolfpack's bowl game.

Tenuta appears to fit the administration's top requirement in an assitant hire: he has ample Division I coaching experience. He's coached D-I defenses for the last 30 years, and has been the defensive coordinator at Notre Dame, Ohio State, Georgia Tech, Marshall, Kansas and SMU. Tenuta is known for an aggressive blitzing style that helped him produce top-ranked defenses for six straight years at Georgia Tech.

Our take: While it's unkown if Tenuta will take the job, it's becoming clear that this next batch of London's assistants will likely produce an experience upgrade from his previous staff. New special teams coordinator Kevin Banks has much more experience at the spot than Anthony Poindexter, and Tenuta continues the experience trend. Reid had a ton of experience, just not at the D-I level.

Moreover, Tenuta's attacking style could prove to be an exciting compliment to the high-level athletes London is recruiting on the defensive side of the ball (see: Eli Harold).

Lastly, hiring Tenuta could do much to repair the football program's damaged reputation. Fair or not, the firing of four assistant coaches has given the impression that the program is spiraling. Hiring an experienced, well-respected assistant like Tenuta would provide a reason for Cavaliers fans to have faith that London, Jon Oliver, and Craig Littlepage know what they're doing.