ACC Football: Will Jon Tenuta Become Virginia's New Defensive Coordinator?

Ben GibsonSenior Analyst IDecember 3, 2012

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 31:  Head coach Mike London of the Virginia Cavaliers against the Auburn Tigers during the 2011 Chick Fil-A Bowl at Georgia Dome on December 31, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Virginia football cleaned house on Sunday by firing four assistant coaches (per

The big changes on defense make many wonder if head coach Mike London has a master plan to replace defensive coordinator Jim Reid.

After all, change is not inherently a good thing. Reid has stabilized a unit that many expected to be the Achilles heel of the team in 2012. The last nine opponents Virginia played were held to 340 or fewer yards of total offense.

On the other hand, the Cavaliers finished dead last in the ACC in interceptions and in the bottom quarter of the conference in sacks. When Virginia needed a big play to revive a sporadic offense, the defense often could not come to the rescue.

Well, if Virginia wants an aggressive defensive coordinator, then it has a potential candidate in North Carolina State linebackers coach and former Cavalier player Jon Tenuta.

Tenuta has been around college football for a long time now as a defensive coordinator with Georgia Tech and interim head coach for the team after Chan Gailey was fired. He also worked with Notre Dame and Charlie Weis before taking his current gig with the Wolfpack.

While the teams he worked with typically underperformed, Tenuta's defenses put up some rather impressive statistics. At Georgia Tech, the defense was consistently ranked in the Top 25 in terms of scoring, rushing and total defense.

Several of his players earned All-ACC honors and that is probably because his schemes are built towards blitzing to create big plays. He is certainly someone who garners respect with 31 years of coaching experience.

Fortunately for Virginia, with the firing of Wolfpack coach Tom O'Brien, Tenuta may be available after North Carolina State's bowl game.

Bringing Tenuta back to Virginia gives the Cavaliers a respected alum who has already spent several years coaching at four different ACC schools. He can provide a solid game plan and philosophy to help give identity to a program clearly lacking in all departments under coach Mike London.

Many would understand the change with Tenuta, but the problem is that even with his background pedigree, success is far from a given.

Only once in his six seasons at Georgia Tech did the Yellow Jackets finish with more than seven victories. Notre Dame was 13-12 in two years under Weis and Tenuta.

In fact, 1999 was the last time a Tenuta team got to the magic double-digit win mark with Ohio State. Now that may certainly be a big mark to achieve, but a program looking to break out of mediocrity needs to make a splash with its hires.

Tenuta appears to be the front-runner for a return to Charlottesville, but with his pledge to stay on staff until the Wolfpack season ends, you wonder how trigger-happy Virginia will become.

Instability is what scares recruits away, particularly big names like secondary All-Star Tim Harris, who committed earlier this year to Virginia.

Can Virginia afford a question mark for nearly a month at a key position?

Is Tenuta worth the wait?