Virginia football notes: Veteran DT Aaron Faumui enjoys sharing his knowledge, experience with teammates

The pass-rushing technique Virginia defensive tackle Michael Diatta plans to unveil this fall comes after an offseason of fine-tuning the move with teammate Aaron Faumui.
Faumui is in his sixth year in the Cavaliers’ program. Diatta is in his third, and he will enter the new campaign as Faumui’s backup.
“He’s played a lot of football,” Diatta said, “and knows a lot just from playing the game. He does stuff I can’t even think of doing, so I can learn a lot from him and make my game better.”
Indeed, Faumui has lined up for plenty of game reps. He’s appeared in 48 contests, started 24 and has racked up 102 tackles and 10 sacks in his career. Last season, his 8.5 tackles for loss were a UVa-best.
“Aaron is a big, physical, imposing young man and a great worker,” Cavaliers defensive coordinator John Rudzinski said, “and he does a great job in that he’s got natural leverage and at the same time he’s a 300-pounder in there that likes to throw it around. You put all that together, and you’re tough to block.”
Virginia defensive lineman Aaron Faumui takes part in practice on Thursday at the McCue Center.
Faumui doesn’t mind sharing his wisdom and tips about how to best use those attributes with the other UVa interior defensive linemen either, he said, and appreciates Diatta’s willingness to observe and listen.
“It’s great,” Faumui said. “We have a lot of young guys finally at the college level, like Diatta, and they’re getting more reps in the game. So, it’s great to give back what you know about the game and I’m never the type to keep secrets, so whatever I can share to help you, I’m going to.”
Diatta capped the 2022 season more confidently than he began it on the heels of an impressive performance — two tackles and a sack — in UVa’s late October win at Georgia Tech, especially knowing he likely would be an important reserve ticketed for increased playing time heading into 2023.
He said throughout the spring and summer he wanted to build on that and did so by working closely with Faumui as well as defensive end Kam Butler on pass-rushing fundamentals.
“We were making sure we were ready for this season,” Diatta said.
And that’s when Faumi taught Diatta what Diatta calls the jump-cross chop, which sounds more like a Taekwondo tactic than pursuit of an opposing quarterback.
“The D-Lineman pivots inside and leaps outside, swipes the offensive lineman’s hand,” Diatta said. “I learned that from Aaron, actually, and I’ve seen him do it so many times. I didn’t have the confidence that I could do it. I didn’t think it could pull it off, but then I thought, ‘Why not?’ and I tried it one day in practice and it worked.”
Faumui said he picked it up from watching video clips of NFL star Aaron Donald and applied it last season.
“I got a lot of [quarterback] pressures with it last year,” Faumui said with a smile.
In the secondary, Virginia has slid some of its personnel from one position to another.
After the spring, Iowa State transfer defensive back Tayvonn Kyle moved from cornerback to safety and the Cavaliers decided former starting safety Coen King would stick at cornerback after he was moved there ahead of spring practice.
Lex Long, who started at safety at times last season, was taking linebacker reps on Thursday.
“It’s the necessity of some different skill sets and then also it brings some flexibility for us with an opportunity for guys to play multiple spots throughout a season,” Rudzinski said about why he and his defensive staff have had some of their players change positions.
“And to make it through a rigorous 12-game season,” Rudzinski explained, “you’ve got to have guys that can play multiple spots and they’ve done a great job as learners and a great job competing.”
Rudzinski said Long can help the Hoos in a variety of ways.
“He’s done a great job,” Rudzinski said. “He’s been a guy that’s in the mix competitive wise. He can play multiple spots and that’s been fun to see him get closer to the box, but he’s got the ability to play safety.”
Junior running back Amaad Foston isn’t trying to over complicate his return to action after suffering a torn ACL last preseason.
Instead of worrying about where he falls on the depth chart in his crowded position group, he said he’s just appreciating being back.
“It was a deep-breath feeling, like, ‘We’re here,’” he said about getting back on the practice field this preseason. “I just had to take in that moment, and now I’ve got to work my butt off.”
Foston said he feels like he’s been able to absorb contact well and that running backs coach Keith Gaither makes sure all the backs get their touches in practice.
Foston is in a position unit that also includes returning veterans Perris Jones and Mike Hollins as well as Clemson transfer Kobe Pace. Foston said he’s hoping to carve out a role on special teams, too. He said Gaither, who also is UVa’s special teams coordinator, has him working on the punt and kickoff teams.
Senior tight end Sackett Wood Jr. hauled in 12 catches for 165 yards last season while contributing in the passing game regularly over the final six games of the 2022 campaign.
Virginia tight end Sackett Wood Jr. discusses training camp and his confidence heading into the 2023 season.
He’s looking to polish up all aspects of his game heading into this season, though.
“But I want to be a complete tight end,” Wood said. “I want to be able to block real well and be a factor in the passing game, so I think I came along in the passing game last year, so this offseason it’s been more of a focus on getting my run[-blocking] technique good and making sure I can do that.”

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