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Virginia football: Coaching change tracker

Following the comings and goings of UVA’s assistant coaches

Clemson v Virginia Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images

The 2021 season officially came to an end for the Virginia Cavaliers on Sunday, December 26, with the announcement that UVA would not be able to participate in the Wasabi Fenway Bowl. The end of the season also meant the end of Bronco Mendenhall’s tenure as head coach and the transition to the Tony Elliott era.

A change in head coach also means lots of changes in assistants. Below is a list—which we’ll update regularly—with the latest news on where former staff is going, and who may be coming to Charlottesville as new staff.

Offensive Staff

Offensive Coordinator: Des Kitchings (Atlanta Falcons)

The new staff entered the new year with Falcons’ running backs coach Des Kitchings joining Elliott’s staff as offensive coordinator. Kitchings’ previous college experience includes stints as co-offensive coordinator at both Vanderbilt and NC State—where he also coached running backs—and as running backs coach at South Carolina. He is known as an extremely strong recruiter, having landed a number of NC State’s top recruits (mostly in-state prospects) during his time in Raleigh.

Offensive Line: Garrett Tujague (retained)

Wide Receivers: Marques Hagans (retained)

Both Hagans and Tujague were retained from the Mendenhall staff and have been officially announced by the athletics department. Their roles may shift under Elliott as he rounds out other staff choices.

Quarterbacks: Taylor Lamb (Gardner-Webb)

UVA announced that Lamb will be joining the Virginia coaching staff Thursday evening as the Quarterbacks’ coach, replacing the beloved Jason Beck.

Most UVA fans know Gardner-Webb as the basketball team’s first round opponent en route to the 2019 NCAA Tournament title, but Lamb’s offense put up better than 30 points a game in 2021 for the gridiron Bulldogs.

Defensive Staff

Defensive Coordinator: John Rudzinski (Air Force)

Elliott rounded out his service academy trifecta by pulling Air Force’s defensive coordinator to Charlottesville, in a move announced officially by the University on Thursday. Rudzinski—an Air Force Academy graduate—has been in Colorado Springs his entire 14-year coaching career. His defense has been among the nation’s best in total yardage each of the past three seasons, and Rudzinski was the Falcons’ recruiting coordinator as well.

Defensive Line: Kevin Downing (Navy)

UVA Officially announced the hiring of Downing to coach the Defensive Line/Ends on Monday (1/5) afternoon. Downing has spent the last four years at Navy coaching the Defensive Ends and “Raider” position — a specialty position in Navy’s defense similar to a Jumbo OLB — and is a 2004 graduate of North Carolina Central University.

Defensive Ends/Outside Linebackers (?): Chris Slade (Pace Academy [Ga.])

Originally reported by Pete Thamel of Yahoo, the University officially announced Slade’s hiring on Thursday. Slade needs no introduction to the UVA faithful: a star at Tabb in Newport News, Slade garnered consensus All-American honors in 1991 and 1992 as the quarterback-destroying nightmare machine for the early 1990s Cavaliers. Still the holder of the ACC career sack record, Slade was a second-round draft pick of the New England Patriots and played 9 seasons in the NFL. He coached Pace Academy—just outside Atlanta—for nine seasons including a 2015 state championship.

Defensive Backs (?): Keith Gaither (Army)

Also announced Thursday, Gaither comes to Charlottesville from Army where he returned after a season as the wide receivers coach at Western Michigan and two seasons as pass game coordinator/wide receivers coach at East Carolina. Gaither started his college coaching career as a defensive backs coach at Winston-Salem State; Elliott’s announcement confirmed Gaither would move to the defensive side of the ball but did not specify a position group.

Linebackers: Clint Sintim (retained)

Sintim was also announced as a retained staff member. Pete Thamel reported that Sintim would move to coaching linebackers with the addition of Downing (and Slade?) to coach defensive line.

Defensive Backs and Defensive Passing Game Coordinator: Curome Cox (Air Force)

On Thursday UVA also officially announced that Curome Cox — who tweeted about joining the Virginia staff over the weekend — will be coach the defensive backs and work as the defensive passing game coordinator.

Cox coached the last two seasons at Air Force. He played defensive back at Maryland before an NFL career that saw him stand out as a special teams contributor, including being a finalist for 2006 AFC Special Teams Player of the Year.

Strength/Support Staff

Head Strength & Conditioning: Adam Smotherman (Clemson)

The assistant strength-and-conditioning coach for Clemson’s football team—and the “get back” coach for longtime Clemson defensive coordinator Venables—has officially been announced as one of Elliott’s first hires.

Assoc. Strength & Conditioning: Nate Pototschnick (retained)

Part of the UVA strength-and-conditioning team since 2016, assistant strength and conditioning coach Nate Pototschnick was retained along with the position coaches above and promoted to associate strength and conditioning coach.

Director of Scouting: Justin Speros (USF)

The football program’s Twitter account announced Speros’ hiring as director of scouting.

Director of Recruiting: Lindsey Morris (Clemson)

Morris was the Assistant Director of Recruiting and Freshman Transition for the Tigers before being announced as Elliott’s director of recruiting in Charlottesville.

Previous Coaches

Nick Howell: Vanderbilt

According to FOX’s Bruce Feldman, Howell will join Clark Lea’s staff at Vanderbilt in a return to coaching defensive backs under defensive coordinator Jesse Minter:

Robert Anae and Jason Beck: Syracuse

Offensive coordinator Robert Anae had reportedly left the UVA team before Christmas, with quarterbacks coach Jason Beck staying to call plays for the bowl game. Dino Babers and Syracuse officially announced the hires of Anae as OC and Beck as QBs coach on Dec. 30th.

Ricky Brumfield: FIU

Brumfield had been one of the Hoos’ strongest recruiters, especially building a pipeline to Charlottesville of players from Louisiana. The move was reported by 247 Sports.

Mark Atuaia: Washington State

The energetic running backs coach is reportedly off to join the Cougars, according to Yahoo’s Pete Thamel.

Shawn Griswold: SMU

Joe Hoyt of the Dallas Morning News reported the strength coach would be joining the Mustangs.

Kelly Poppinga: Boise State

The former UVA outside linebackers coach joins the Broncos, according to ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg.