Under the leadership of Defensive Passing Game Coordinator and Defensive Backs Coach Curome Cox, the Virginia Cavaliers corners excelled in 2022. The ‘Hoos were 4th in pass defense with only 204 yards per game allowed.
However their five interceptions were fewer than every team in the ACC outside of Blacksburg. That will have to change if Virginia wants to improve upon last year’s 3-7 record.
That will be all the more difficult given what this unit lost in the offseason. Johnson graduated while Fentrell Cypress has transferred to Iowa, and Coen King has moved to safety. Johnson — now fighting for an NFL roster spot — made 51 total tackles (three for loss) and led the team in pass break ups. Cypress was second in pass breakups while King was second among cornerbacks in tackles. He’ll still be a key part of the Wahoo secondary, just from different territory on the field.
While Virginia’s returning depth takes a hit due to graduation and transfer, the ‘Hoos are bringing three transfers with significant experience.
Highlighting the group is Malcom Greene. Greene was a four-star recruit and ranked ninth overall in the state of Virginia coming out of High School. After starting his career at Clemson, Greene has followed Tony Elliot to Charlottesville. Last year, Green played in seven games, starting two of them and registered eight tackles and one interception. HIs stats don’t jump off the page, but for a secondary needing reinforcements he’s a welcome and talented addition.
TRUE FRESHMAN OF THE WEEK— PFF College (@PFF_College) November 30, 2020
Malcolm Greene, Clemson CB
6 targets (2 catches allowed)
1 INT pic.twitter.com/lbN0xdI5YN
Also coming into Virginia via the transfer portal are Tayvon Kyle and Sam Westfall. Kyle comes to UVA after five years at Iowa State where in his freshman year was named All Big 12 Honorable Mention. Over his career he amassed 76 tackles and one interception. He’s a great athlete as he placed fifth in the state in the Triple Jump his senior year of high school. Westfall comes in from SMU where he appeared in all thirteen games a season ago for the Mustangs, starting eleven of them and notching 15 tackles.
Behind the three transfers is a slew of returners with little to no experience. Elijah Gaines is a senior who was named most improved special teams player a year ago. Micah Gaffney appeared in nine games last year and chipped in five tackles.
As for the freshman, keep an eye out for Dre Walker. The three-star from North Carolina was the the 36th best player in that state in the class of 2023.
All in all, corner and outside corner in particular is a position with plenty of unknowns for Virginia this season. Cox excelled last season, coaching what was quite clearly the best position group on the roster. The talent and experience that spearheaded that group is gone, so now we’ll get a closer look at how the UVA defense can make due with newcomers and inexperienced players at a critical position.