Hanback leads experienced and deep UVA D-Line

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- No player has started more games for Virginia heading into the 2019 season than senior defensive tackle Eli Hanback, the consistent anchor on what is expected to be a deep defensive line.

"He's tough and he's durable," Coach Bronco Mendenhall said of Hanback, "We talk about being consistent and durable and productive and Eli is exactly that and he's zero drama."

In three seasons, Hanback has started 36 of 38 games he has played in, with the next closest players being cornerback Bryce Hall with 33 and Jordan Mack with 31. But as Mendenhall would say Hanback is not one for the attention, he is just there to do his job.

"It's not something I really think about too much," Hanback said, "I guess it's a cool stat, but I just try to do my best every year where I can help the team, put the team in the best position."

While Hanback has handled the lion's share of snaps the past three seasons, help is on the way with an experienced, healthier and deeper defensive line.

By the end of last season, the depth chart had dwindled to a few healthy defensive linemen after the Wahoos lost both Mandy Alonso and Richard Burney for the season. That allowed first-years like Tommy Christ, Aaron Faumui and Jordan Redmond to pick up starts along the way.

"We were so thin a lot of players have played and so experience, but also with more size and strength," Mendenhall said, "It's really the first time that besides our starting three you could go deeper than that and feel pretty confident."

Outside of the six returnees, Virginia also added 4-star and 3-star defensive linemen Jowon Briggs and Ben Smiley III, respectively. Now playing time at the three spots on the defensive line will come down to not who is available, but who is performing.

"It's going to be very competitive just like we know everybody has talent and everybody just needs to play their best football," junior defensive end Mandy Alonso said, "At least for myself, I love to be pushed, it brings out the best in everybody."

One of the big emphases heading into the season is holding teams under 3.5 yards per carry, which starts up front. A deeper and more well rested defensive line might help elevate the group.

"Much different now because we have about six guys who are finally healthy and have game experience," Hanback said, "So I think we are definitely holding ourselves to a higher standard this time."

As one of the last six players who arrived before Bronco currently on the roster, Hanback will be key to leading an experienced, but young group to greater heights.

"Very impressive just that he's gone so far playing every snap of every game," Alonso said, "Seeing him move everywhere, knowing every position on the d-line, it's pushed me to learn every position on the d-line as well."

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