Briggs coming of age on UVA defensive line

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- Jowon Briggs announced his arrival in short order last weekend in Chapel Hill, dropping North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell on the first play from scrimmage for his first career sack.

The first-year nose tackle has been part of Virginia's rotation on the defensive line all season. According to co-defensive coordinator Kelly Poppinga this week, that sack is another sign that Briggs is starting to come of age.

"His pass rush has gotten better," Poppinga said. "Great power on that play where he got the sack."

Briggs arrived on Grounds this off-season as the most highly regarded recruit of Bronco Mendenhall's tenure as UVA's head coach -- a consensus four-star prospect, one of the top 100 players in the 2019 class and an Under Armour All-American.

Briggs and inside linebacker Nick Jackson are the only two true freshmen to appear in all nine games for the Wahoos this fall. Briggs has started seven, and has at least one tackle in six.

"He's definitely grown up a lot. And he's had his own share of mistakes, but that comes with being a first-year and going right into starting," UVA junior defensive lineman Mandy Alonso said. "He's just been going with the flow. Basically if he plays a lot, he plays a little, it doesn't really matter. He's always ready."

Briggs is second behind senior Eli Hanback among defensive linemen with 19 total tackles. He finished with four in last week's win at UNC. His three tackles for loss are tied with Alonso and Aaron Faumui for second-most on the Cavaliers' defensive line, also behind Hanback.

On Saturday, that defensive line will face a Georgia Tech offense that ranks at the bottom of the ACC it total yards, averaging 299.5 per game. UVA's defense ranks fourth in the league in yards allowed, giving up 310.1 per game.

"I think in the last couple of games, our D-linemen have done a great job of collapsing the pocket. Especially Eli," Poppinga said. "With him collapsing the pocket, now Jowon collapsing the pocket, that's what we have to do. To take some stress off of our DBs, our front seven has to step up."

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