Cavalier Corner

Dec. 2019

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18 CAVALIER CORNER A redshirt fourth-year, Hanback has ap- peared in all 48 games of his college career with 44 starts. He went into the bye week in November among the team's top five in tackles for loss (seven; fifth) and sacks (four; fourth). Aside from a level of durability that bor- ders on legendary around the McCue Cen- ter, Hanback's attention to detail and his penchant for putting his head down and just going to work are what have really stood out to his head coach. "Eli Hanback has been the most consis- tent player on our defense the entire year," Mendenhall said in late October. "He's graded the highest, performed the best and no one even knows who he is, which is why I like him even more. He's really, really played well, so his constant leadership will need to be relied on also." After the team's 33-28 win over Geor- gia Tech in November, Mendenhall again praised Hanback for his reliability. "The consistency and the standard setting he shows every day in practice is so influ- ential and needed," he explained. "When the rest of the front seven starts executing and plays as consistent as he is — which they'll need to down the stretch here — that will be necessary, and that's what he provides." His teammates don't have to try hard to see what No. 58 brings on the defensive line. "All they have to do is look at film," Men- denhall stated. "He's where he's supposed to be every single play." "I'm not perfect every play," Hanback humbly said later with the hint of a smile. "That's a nice thing to say, but I think that's a bit of an exaggeration." His fellow defensive starters, however, disagreed with that assessment. "You don't see much, which is what is so unique about Eli," second-year outside linebacker Noah Taylor said. "You don't really see what he's doing until you pull up the film and it's like 'Eli, Eli, Eli, Eli.' "Our inside backers are able to make this play or that play because of Eli. Our outside backers are able to make these plays because of Eli. You don't hear it from the announcers or from the crowd chanting his name, but he consistently shows up, does his work and doesn't say much. He just leads by example." "I would say he's the unsung hero of the defense," third-year safety Joey Blount added. "Being here all these years, he's not a man of many words. But he's a man of many actions." Ever the one to focus on the team, even when writers try to get him to talk about himself, Hanback's framing never changes. "It's awesome," he said of his UVA expe- rience thus far. "It just shows the work we put in as a team and as a program … but we have a lot of unfinished business. We still have games left and we take one game at a time. So we have a lot of our goals still out on the table there that we want to accom- plish. We've got to just keep fighting and stay focused." Throughout his time on Grounds, the pro- gram has changed dramatically. Hanback believes that's happened because of the will that the players have developed and the deter- mination they've had to turn things around. "I think the effort, that's become much more consistent," Hanback said. "Just locked in our assignments, fundamentals. I think we've become, each year, stronger and stronger and more united behind our mission and our goals. I think the culture has changed, and the young guys come in and accept that culture. "We've got guys here now who were there when it started, and we're just really pushing that. I think we've become a united front behind our mission and our culture." Through 10 games, Hanback ranked fourth on the team with four sacks and fifth with seven tackles for loss. PHOTO BY MATT RILEY/COURTESY UVA A DREAM COME TRUE Eli Hanback Has Gone From Virginia Fan To The Team's Most Reliable Defensive Lineman BY BRAD FRANKLIN W ITH TWO GAMES LEFT IN THE 2019 REGULAR SEASON, UVA went into its final bye week in control of its own fate in the Coastal Division with only the annual matchup against Vir- ginia Tech standing between the Hoos and the ACC Championship Game. For defensive lineman Eli Hanback, that the Cavaliers are in a spot to play for their first-ever appearance in the title game means the world to him. For head coach Bronco Mendenhall and Hanback's teammates, the Ashland native and his consistency in the trenches is a huge reason why.

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