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Countdown to Virginia Football: #53 Micah Kiser

NCAA Football: Duke at Virginia Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports
  • Class: Junior
  • Position: ILB
  • Height: 6’2:
  • Weight: 240
  • Hometown: Baltimore (Gilman School)
  • Twitter: @kiser_rollin

For the many struggles of the 2015 Virginia football team, there were a couple of bright spots. One of those was the breakthrough of linebacker Micah Kiser, the starting inside linebacker in the 4-3 defense of then-defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta. Kiser led the ACC in tackles with 117 in 12 games, which was good enough for 17th in the nation as well.

One could argue that while those numbers are impressive from an individual perspective for Kiser, it doesn’t bode well for the team as a whole that one player can make that many tackles. To that point, Virginia’s defense was 81st out of 128 FBS teams in 2015 with 412 yards allowed per game, and 96th at a staggering 32.2 average points given up. On the other hand, BYU was 36th in yards per game (358) and 31st in points allowed (21.8) under Bronco Mendenhall and defensive coodinator Nick Howell, who came with Mendenhall to Charlottesville. BYU’s leading tackler for 2015, Michael Wadsworth, had 79 tackles.

Looking at Kiser’s roughly 10 tackles a game alongside those team-wide defensive numbers, it’s safe to say that his stats from last season were due to more than his individual talent. Tenuta’s defense just wasn’t as good at getting off the field as they were in 2014, when they were 31st in the country at 353 yards allowed per game. A lot of that decline was due to the departures of Eli Harold and Max Valles, among others - indeed, Tenuta’s blitz-happy scheme wasn’t nearly as effective after the loss of outstanding front-seven athletes like Harold, Valles, and Henry Coley.

There will be a learning curve associated with the 3-4, and the graduation of cornerback Maurice Canady leaves the defense without one of the best defensive backs in recent UVa history. Simply put, it won’t be a very smooth road for the defense this year as it undergoes an identity change in both scheme and personality. Mendenhall’s passion and perfectionist attitude are well-documented, and he’s worked on the defensive side of the ball for his entire coaching career. Growing pains are to be expected, but Kiser remains one of the team’s crown jewels and will be a major key if this program is to make its first bowl appearance since 2011.

Some of Kiser’s notable accomplishments, via the UVa media relations department:

  • First-team All-ACC in 2015
  • On this year’s Lott Trophy Watch List
  • Was half of the crucial sack (along with David Dean) in overtime against Syracuse that ultimately resulted in a UVa win on Homecomings.
  • Has started 24 straight games dating back to 2014

Now, enjoy this package of some of Kiser’s biggest plays from 2015.