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Virginia’s defensive backs still struggled to contain big plays in Saturday’s loss to Maryland.
The (Charlottesville) Daily Progress|File
UVa safeties coach and special teams coordinator Anthony Poindexter made 342 tackles playing for the Cavaliers.
The (Charlottesville) Daily Progress|File
Former UVa safety Corey Mosley lifts position coach Anthony Poindexter during a win over Duke in 2011. Virginia DBs haven’t had much to celebrate in 2013.
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
CHARLOTTESVILLE — Of all the attributes that helped Anthony Poindexter become one of Virginia’s most decorated football players, none was more special than his tackling.
Maybe the time has come for Poindexter, now in his 10th season as a UVa assistant, to dig up some of his old game tape.
To watch this year’s UVa secondary, it would seem that tackling is a lost art. The Cavaliers gave up seven plays of 30 yards or more Saturday in a 27-26 loss at Maryland.
The Terps’ first touchdown followed a screen pass that went for 77 yards.
“People are going to break some plays,” Poindexter said,” but if you just tackle them after 10 yards and not give up the 30 or 40 yards, you live to see another day.
“I don’t know if it’s just the secondary, but, obviously, once it gets to the secondary, we’ve got to start to bring guys to the turf.”
Of the 15 Virginia players who have finished their careers with 300 tackles or more, only Poindexter was primarily a defensive back. He was a three-time first-team All-ACC selection and a two-time All-American.
Poindexter racked up 342 tackles during his UVa career (1995-98) and had 12 interceptions, good for seventh on UVa’s all-time list.
Poindexter also took part in one of UVa’s most impressive defensive accomplishments, when the Cavaliers intercepted a pass in 39 consecutive games between 1993-96, an NCAA record that stands to this day.
In comparison, the 2012 Virginia football team intercepted four passes all season — its low since UVa started keeping comprehensive records in 1946. The Cavaliers (2-4, 0-2 ACC) have three interceptions in six games this year.
“We dropped two Saturday,” Poindexter said. “Right in our hands.”
Then, there was the 47-yard completion from Maryland quarterback Caleb Rowe to wide receiver Deon Long on third-and-22 and the Terrapins trailing 26-20.
Virginia defensive backs Anthony Harris and Drequan Hoskey were defending Long and he “out-competed them,” is the way UVa head coach Mike London described it.
“That’s a play that we’ve got to make,” Poindexter said. “We’ve got two guys on one guy and we’ve got to go up and get the ball. Whether you knock it down, pick it off, whatever, you’ve got to make that play.”
Maryland scored the go-ahead touchdown two plays later.
Poindexter coaches the UVa safeties and Chip West is the assistant in charge of cornerbacks. London was a defensive back at the University of Richmond and UVa defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta was a safety at UVa.
Moreover, Virginia has 18 scholarship defensive backs on its roster. If one guy isn’t getting the job done, there should be options. In fact, it appears likely that senior Rijo Walker will get the start Saturday in place of Brandon Phelps, who had one tackle against the Terps.
“He’s a good tackler,” Poindexter said of Walker. “He’s a little more in the mold of myself, really. Very, very, very solid tackler. If he can help us win, that’s what we want to do. I think Phelps is still going to help us win. We’re not going to throw him to the side.”
An injury to three-year starter Demetrious Nicholson meant that true freshman Tim Harris started at one of the cornerback spots Saturday. Although reviews were generally favorable, Harris was involved in a play where he leaped to defend a pass and tipped it into the hands of a trailing Maryland receiver.
“There’s only going to be a handful of plays that make a difference in the game,” Poindexter said. “Who knows what five or six plays they’re going to be, but, if you’re part of it, you’ve got to make the plays.
“Most of the time, the big plays comes from a missed tackle or you mis-time a jump, stuff that we can control. I don’t care if you shoelace-tackle a guy or block-tackle him. Just bring him to the ground.”
Poindexter said the players practice well and make the plays that have been botched on game day.
“Obviously, the other team’s on scholarship, too,” Poindexter said. “They’ve got something to do with it, but sometimes we’d like to be on the flip side of it.”
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