As part of our 2012 season preview, we’re counting down the top 25 players in the ACC for this season, from 25 to one. Obviously these lists are always completely subjective, so feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments.
Despite an offense that at times seemed anemic in 2011, the Virginia Cavaliers still managed to win a surprising eight games on the backs of their stable and experienced defensive unit. While six of those 11 players are now departed, one of the most important pieces — senior linebacker Steve Greer — remains, and will be the catalyst for the Hoos’ D in 2012.
Playing an aggressive middle linebacker spot, Greer obviously functions as a spearhead for all activity on the field, leading both pass rushes and coverage schemes alike. In 12 game last year, he recorded 103 tackles — including two sacks — making him one of the best defenders in the conference in that category (seventh overall in terms of average tackles per game). Decisive and quick, the 6’2″, 235-pounder moves across the field in leaps and bounds, and has shown himself more adept at reading defenses as the season wears on. After starting last year with just nine tackles in the first two games, he’d end up tallying 56 over the next five. Most notable about Greer is also how much the team felt his absence in a 43-24 Chick-fil-a Bowl defeat against Auburn, a game they struggled to truly get a firm grasp on from the beginning.
For 2012, the linebacking corps will now be the only experienced group on the Virginia defense, making Greer into the de facto leader of the unit. To the relief of many UVa fans, he understands the magnitude of his position right now, and appears ready to embrace his new role as co-captain (via Fredericksburg.com)
“I definitely have to be more vocal. You’ve got to understand that you’re going to have more eyes watching you, and every little step you take. So you’ve always got to make sure you’re doing the right thing and showing guys the right way to do stuff.”
It’s that part of leadership (teaching) that has folks around the program excited most of all. Being vocal and directive is one thing. But understanding his stature as a role model is another one entirely. Sure, Greer could just use this season as an audition for the NFL — and don’t worry, he’ll get there just the same — but he’s got similarly important work to do for the future of Cavaliers football. Expect him to lead by example for a group that may once again overachieve.