Defense depleted, Cavaliers trudge on UVA AT FSU
Mendenhall says ‘ wear and tear’ have taken toll on team
Talented linebacker Charles Snowden will be tough for Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall to replace, but that’s not Virginia’s only lineup dilemma ahead of a game against Florida State.
Without Snowden, the Cavaliers are down a number of starters, including Richard Burney (health issues) and Jowon Briggs (transfer to Cincinnati). Safeties Joey Blount and Brenton Nelson have also missed significant playing time in recent weeks with injuries.
The defense is battered. “Most of our issues in terms of depth and roster now are not COVID-related but injuryrelated, which is coming through just the wear and tear of a long season and probably the most difficult schedule I’ve ever taken on as a head coach,” Mendenhall said.
In Snowden’s place, the Cavaliers turn to Matt Gahm.
The senior linebacker draws praise from his coaches, who say he’s one of their more reliable performers. He now takes over a larger role for the Wahoos as a starting linebacker with Snowden out.
“It was hard seeing a teammate, especially one that I’ve been around so long, a good friend of mine, go down,” Gahm said. “We were all very sad to see that, after the game in the locker room, trying to comfort him as much as possible.”
Gahm says his mentality won’t change even as his role might increase.
“Just put my helmet on, go to work like I always do,” Gahm said.
A player rarely talked about in the press, Gahm enters Saturday’s contest with limited hype. Snowden entered each game as one of UVA’s top NFL prospects and a vocal leader both on and off the field. When people think of UVA football in 2020, Snowden comes to mind.
Gahm made a joke toward the end of his time speaking with the media, saying, “Took me four years to get a press conference. Feels good.”
Even with the increased eyes watching him this week, Gahm wants to do
whatever his peers need. He wants to win games, and he’s happy playing the majority of snaps Saturday or yielding some time to fellow linebackers in an effort to replace Snowden’s production with multiple bodies.
“I don’t really care what the media says,” Gahm said. “I don’t care what the fans think. I care about fighting for my teammates next to me and the guys that I go to work with every day. Whatever this program needs me to do, I’m going to do. I don’t care how much limelight I get, I don’t care how much attention I get; I don’t do it for that. I do it for my teammates and my coaches.”
Despite the Seminoles owning a
2-6 record, Mendenhall and company aren’t overlooking the challenges posed by FSU. Virginia respects Florida State’s tradition and raw talent, as well as the new coaching staff led by head coach Mike Norvell.
“If you put stock into the recruiting rankings and you look at just the quality of a roster and now you add a new staff — they’re being coached well and I’m talking about the discipline, the alignments, the assignments, the schemes — I see a transformation happening as there’s a new staff and players kind of coming together,” Mendenhall said.