Cavalier Corner

Dec. 2019

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DECEMBER 2019 19 So how does one play consistently enough to have their head coach — who is never one to gush — say they're always in the right spot? "Over the years, I've learned that to be successful you've got to watch a lot of film," Hanback said. "I try to do that, and it's something I can always get better at; but understanding the defense, where I'm going and where I fit in the defense, I think is very beneficial." The ending of the 2019 season seems an interesting contrast to last fall for the defense, given the injuries in the secondary now compared to the ailments on the de- fensive line then. Hanback was one of four linemen to suit up for the Belk Bowl. Now, that group is deep and healthy, and will be leaned on considerably down the stretch. "I think that's a big deal because it's im- portant for us that we kind of have to pick up the weight for everyone that's been in- jured," Hanback said. "Coach Mendenhall came up to me after the Georgia Tech game and said, 'We really need to focus on help- ing out the back end and the linebackers.' "So it's now going to be on the front seven to help out and lead the defense and get after the quarterback." The depth and health along the front have allowed the big men to accomplish that. "It's been very nice," Hanback noted. "I think we've been able to keep guys healthy with rotating and keep guys fresh. I think we've benefitted from that and guys are get- ting good experience from that. It adds just a little more sense of competition all around the board, and that's always good." Though he doesn't get a lot of headlines, his teammates know the impact Hanback has had on the program and on a Virginia defense that has carried the team for a good part of this season. "He really is consistently a rock for our defense," Blount explained. "If you turn the film on, he's always doing the little things right. Some plays you don't even know who makes the tackle, but it's Eli. One of the big- gest guys, not known as a pass rusher, but he's making sacks and up there in sack stats. He's just a dominant [player] up front and consistently takes double teams on, sheds double teams. "In the trenches, that's a hard job to do, and he does not complain. I've never seen him injured. He's never complained about practice. He always just puts his head down and works. He doesn't need any type of glory. That's the type of player that really runs this defense. Without him, I don't know if the defense would be the same." "It's been important to have some people like him that have been through that pro- cess," Taylor said. "Him, J-Mack [fourth- year linebacker Jordan Mack], [fourth-year cornerback] Bryce Hall, [third-year safety] De'Vante Cross, [third-year safety] Chris Moore, people that have been through the process and didn't have anything handed to them. People that came from a team that was obviously 2-10. "They're the ones that are taking up all the double teams most of the time. So I'm appreciative of what they do because not only are they taking on the double teams, but then they're asked to make plays." "I'm grateful for his leadership," Men- denhall said of Hanback. "It's by example — it's not by word, but it's still powerful." Growing up a UVA fan, Hanback came to games regularly as a kid and he's got a number of memories of Scott Stadium, including watching former Wahoo-great- turned-assistant-coach Marques Hagans in action. While he didn't come to every game, Hanback remembers coming to a few each season. That makes his college career and what he's done on Grounds all the more special. "This has been really amazing," he said. "To grow up a fan and watch the ups and downs of the teams, and then to come in [and play]. We weren't good [at first] … but obviously we've become a lot better since Coach Mendenhall has been here. "So to grow up a fan and to be able to come and play here and be a part of that has been awesome. It's something that I'll "Eli Hanback has been the most consistent player on our defense the entire year. He's graded the highest, per- formed the best and no one even knows who he is, which is why I like him even more." HEAD COACH BRONCO MENDENHALL

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