If there’s one area of the Virginia Cavaliers that should alert Tennessee Football when the two face off, it’s the experience returning on the defensive line. Tony Elliot’s second season with UVA sees a team that returns everybody up front.
However, UT tight end Jacob Warren looks at that as a potential advantage for the Vols. As Warren noted, that means he’s got a year of film on the guys he will be facing up front.
“You’re not going into it blind,” Warren said of Saturday’s opener in Nashville. “If you’re playing a young guy or even sometimes when you’re playing guys that transfer into schools, you don’t have much film of them in the actual system they’re you’re going to be playing them against. It can be a little more difficult.”
UVA returns nose tackler Jahmeer Carter, whose presence opens up plays for fellow defensive tackle Aaron Faumui and defensive ends, Chico Bennett Jr. and Kam Butler. Bennett and Butler combined for 10 sacks last year.
Warren, as a tight end, would be focusing more on the defensive ends when he’s blocking to help with pass protection, as is typical for tight ends. However, he said his role in handling edge rushers comes down to matchups and size.
“Whether I’m really skilled a pass blocking or not, I’m lighter than most edge rushers, and maybe that comes with a lot of power, a lot of strength that they have maybe an advantage over, so you wouldn’t ask me to block a guy that’s 290 pounds and super twitched up,” he said. “He literally gets paid to rush the quarterback. That’s all he does, so third down, you kind of try to stay out of positions that put us in bad spots.”
With Princeton Fant, gone, Warren will also have a bigger role to play in the receiving game this year. Over the last two years, he’s caught 30 passes for 342 yards and three touchdowns.
As for UVA’s pass defense, Warren noted that the schemes aren’t much different than what he has faced in the SEC. He said they typically a hybrid safety/cornerback as their fifth defensive back, and that matchup will dictate how he plays.
“Just being able to be decisive and play fast and be really good getting in and out of my breaks and be physical at the top if somebody’s trying to match me up, those are the ways that I help the team on the perimeter: getting open and catching the ball and maybe getting a first down or whatever it may be, just playing my part,” he said.