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Virginia names John Rudzinski defensive coordinator

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Army, Navy and now Air Force will all have former assistants who are part of Tony Elliott’s initial staff at Virginia.

John Rudzinski is UVa’s new defensive coordinator, the school announced on Thursday. Rudzinski spent 14 seasons working at Air Force, which included the last four as the Falcons’ DC.

Last week, Elliott, the Cavaliers’ new head coach, added defensive assistants Kevin Downing from Navy and Keith Gaither from Army to the Hoos’ team of assistants.

This past season, Air Force finished 10-3 and knocked off Louisville in last month’s First Responder’s Bowl. Rudzinski’s unit led the Mountain West Conference in total defense while yielding 296.5 yards per game, and the group was third in the league in scoring defense (19.8 points per game).

Those numbers nationally ranked fourth and 16th, respectively. And for comparison, UVa’s 2021 defense was among the country’s worst — 121st in the FBS for total defense (466 yards given up per game) and 104th for scoring defense (31.8 points allowed per game).

Rudzinski’s task will be to turn the Cavaliers’ group of defenders in the right direction. Standout linebacker Nick Jackson, the Atlantic Coast Conference’s leader in tackles this past fall, headlines returning personnel for the Cavs.

In 2020, Air Force featured one of the top defenses in its history when the Falcons were third in the country for scoring defense while giving up only 15 points per game. The 15 points per game were the fewest Air Force allowed since 1997.

Throughout Rudzinski’s four-year stint as DC, the Falcons were superb against the run and built on stopping it. They finished in the top 32 nationally each season for run defense since 2018. Air Force fielded the ninth-best run defense (102.2 rushing yards allowed per game) this past fall and seventh-best in 2019 while allowing only 100.5 rushing yards per contest.

Before his promotion to defensive boss, Rudzinski also held roles of recruiting coordinator, defensive backs coach and outside linebackers coach at Air Force.

He played linebacker at Air Force, was a three-year letterman and two-time team captain for the Falcons. Rudzinski was tabbed as the program’s Most Valuable Player in 2004 and represented Air Force in the East-West Shrine Game that year.

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