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Countdown to Virginia Football: #31 Chris Peace

Chris Peace moved from 4-3 OLB to 3-4 DE. This is uncommon and counterintuitive, since Peace seems like a perfect fit as a 3-4 OLB.

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Virginia Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Position: DE
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 235
Year: RS Sophomore
Hometown: Newport News
Twitter: @_ChrisPeace

As we’ve discussed over the past few weeks, LB is a need position for the Hoos. Not counting the incoming freshmen, there are just 4 scholarship OLBs on the roster, and only 2 of those have any playing time. So it was a bit surprising when Chris Peace was moved from OLB to DE.

At 235 pounds, Peace seems a bit small for a 3-4 DE. The two projected starters, Andrew Brown and Eli Hanback, are 285 and 270 pounds respectively. The Hoos actually have 3 DEs at 235 pounds or below. Peace played OLB last year, and looked decent. He played in every game, starting once (Notre Dame). He totaled 12 tackles, including 1 for loss. With the move to a 3-4, Peace seemed like a perfect fit as a pass rushing OLB in the new system.

Over the past 2 years at BYU, the smallest DEs on the roster were 260 pounds. And the starting OLBs for BYU tend to weigh in the 235 pound range, or even more at times. The OLBs on the current Virginia roster average less than 220 pounds. If the 220 pound LBs are faster than the 235 pound LBs, then that would be OK. But I have a feeling that isn’t the case. One concern about using smaller players is that they may be more susceptible to injury over the course of a season. And with such little depth, injuries could absolutely destroy this team’s chances.

Peace has already added nearly 20 pounds to his frame since arriving on grounds. He may be capable of putting another 20+ pounds on without sacrificing his quickness and explosiveness, which would make him much more capable of handling the DE position. He’s raw to begin with, having not played DE until 2013. Prior to that, he played WR and DB. After moving to DE, Peace accumulated 20 sacks and led his team to its first ever playoff berth. Below is Peace’s highlight film.

There are a few highlights of Peace at WR/TE here, but mostly it is defensive highlights. Obviously, this is a highlight reel, but Peace seems almost unblockable. He’s explosive off the snap and he’s in the backfield almost before the play is underway. He has the speed to track down QBs and RBs from the backside and he has the lateral quickness to read, react and make a play.

It is likely that Peace’s lack of experience contributed to his move down to DL. There is no question about whether Peace is quick enough for OLB. In fact, it is likely his quickness that convinced the coaching staff to move him to DE. He has almost no experience in pass coverage, and despite his athletic profile he’d likely struggle in open field tackling, again because of lack of experience. That would make it difficult for him to be an every down LB.

He’s explosive off the snap and could be a pass-rush weapon at DE in the right circumstances. Peace is far too small to play in a 2-gap scheme. However, in certain pass rush situations, it seems like the coaching staff is planning to utilize a 1-gap scheme, and Peace would be useful there. How useful remains to be seen.

Also, don’t discount the coaching staff using him in a LB role in pass-rush situations as well.