CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- The last time Chico Bennett Jr. played a game he was wearing a Georgia Tech uniform, a year and a half later Bennett's UVA career is finally on track.

"It was exciting, got to knock the rust off," Bennett Jr. said with a smile, "I think the direction that we're going in is a pretty positive one, but overall it was exciting to get back out there."

Chico missed all of last season with an ACL injury suffered in spring ball just months after transferring to Virginia from Georgia Tech, where he also missed the entire 2019 season with a labrum injury.

"He's flashed a little bit this spring," UVA head coach Tony Elliott said about Bennett Jr., "He's a guy that's got ability, he's a high character young man, has great leadership qualities and so it's good to see him have some success."

Bennett was originally recruited by former outside linebackers coach Kelly Poppinga and special teams coordinator Ricky Brumfield to UVA out of the transfer portal, who also wanted to return close to his home of Ashburn. The edge rusher returned from injury to a new head coach in Tony Elliott and a new coaching staff, but coaches can already see why Bennett belongs at Virginia.

"Chico, he's a very prideful kid, he wants to do the right things, he takes constructive criticism pretty good, he had a hard time with me in the beginning, but now he's starting to learn me a little bit," UVA defensive ends coach Chris Slade said, "I'm real big on details and small things, but he's receptive, he wants to be good, I think that's part of it. I think he comes out here every day with an agenda and a plan."

Bennett now gets to learn under the tutelage of Chris Slade, a UVA legend who set the ACC's career sack record with the Cavaliers, along with grad assistant Chris Peace, another accomplished former Wahoo. Slade and Peace were a big reason why Bennett was eager to get back on the field to work with the new coaching staff.

"I'm going to call him an old head, I call him an OG," Bennett said referring to Coach Slade, "He's able to give you a different look of it, where as Peace is in the newer era, so being able to have them both is great."

Between the two, Chico has begun to shake off the rust with an emphasis on technique. Slade describes Bennett Jr. as twitchy with long arms and a "decent" athlete, so the focus is on improving hand placement and extension this spring.

"That's what I've really been trying to hone in on with Chico and the rest of the guys to be good technicians, technique, don't be bored doing the routine things every single day," Slade said, "The fundamentals are going to help you become a better player."

Now entering his senior season, Bennett Jr. has only played 15 career games and wears a combination of braces to show for the missed time. But the Virginia native says he grew from the injuries with his mental preparedness and hopes to wreak havoc off the edge for the Cavaliers new-look defense this fall.

"Turn a new page, not necessarily put everything in the past, but I think being able to learn, especially with the injuries it's something to take with you," Bennett Jr. said, "I think it's good momentum going into this new season."