ACC All Access: New Virginia defensive line coach Jerome Oliver brings 35 years of coaching experience

With the addition of Jerome ‘Jappy’ Oliver on Monday, Virginia's football program has another coach on staff with more than 30 years of experience.

It remains to be seen if more experience equals more wins, but Oliver arrives with ample credentials at the college level. He'll coach the defensive line at U.Va. after spending the past four seasons at the University of Buffalo, where he was the assistant head coach, defensive line coach and professional football liaison.

“With my background, I just feel like it was a match made in heaven,” said Oliver, who has also held assistant coaching jobs at Notre Dame, Air Force, Vanderbilt and Northwestern among other schools. “I feel like it’s a perfect fit in the type of players that play for U.Va., and what the university stands for – the high character kids, good student-athletes. I know (U.Va. coach) Mike (London) wants to win championships, and so do I.”

Oliver will take over the role vacated by Vincent Brown, who left U.Va. last week to become the co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Connecticut. U.Va. still has to fill the position vacated by former safeties coach Anthony Poindexter, who also left last week to become UConn's defensive coordinator and safeties coach.

Oliver said he has never coached a game in Scott Stadium, but he visited U.Va. when he was an assistant coach at Notre Dame to pick former Cavaliers coach Al Groh’s brain about various schemes. London was an assistant coach on U.Va.'s staff when Oliver visited Charlottesville. 

Oliver graduated from Southwestern High in Flint, Mich. before going on to become a 1978 graduate from Purdue. He lettered three seasons at Purdue, where he played wide receiver.

In addition to his stop at Buffalo, Oliver was also the defensive line coach at Notre Dame (2005-09), South Carolina ('03 and '04), Air Force (1995-2002), Vanderbilt ('91-93), Grand Valley State ('88) and Navy ('84-86).

He was also the linebackers coach at Vanderbilt ('94), inside linebackers coach at Western Illinois ('89 and '90), outside linebackers coach at Northwestern ('83). He spent two seasons at Eastern Michigan, coaching running backs in '81 and adding wide receivers to his duties in '82.

He worked with current U.Va. defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta at Notre Dame. Tenuta was Notre Dame's assistant head coach and linebackers coach in 2008, adding defensive coordinator of the Fighting Irish to his job title in '09.

In ’06, Oliver was starting his second season on Notre Dame’s staff, and the No. 3-ranked Fighting Irish opened up at Georgia Tech. Tenuta was Georgia Tech’s defensive coordinator. Notre Dame slipped past Georgia Tech 14-10 that day, but Oliver was sold on Tenuta’s hair-on-fire approach.


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“I basically saw what he did to some of our guys on offense,” said Oliver, who added Tenuta was the first U.Va. coach to make contact with him about the opening on the Cavaliers’ staff. “I love his attacking, aggressive style, so that hit home right from the start. Obviously, a couple years later…he ends up at Notre Dame. We got a chance to work together. By nature, I love to attack. If you know anything about (Tenuta) by nature, he loves to attack. Our philosophies work together real well.”

Oliver, who has coached at the college level for 35 years, joins a U.Va. staff that already had four coaches with more than 30 years of coaching experience — Tenuta, associate head coach for offense and tight ends coach Tom O'Brien, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Steve Fairchild and special teams coordinator and running backs coach Larry Lewis.

This past season, Oliver helped lead Buffalo to an 8-5 record. It lost 49-24 to San Diego State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, which was just the second bowl appearance ever for Buffalo.

Buffalo was 17th in the nation out of 123 Bowl Subdivision programs in sacks (38), 40th in scoring defense (24.4 points per game), 49th in total defense (382.8 yards per game) and 67th in rushing defense (166.6 yards per game).

U.Va. finished 2-10 this past season. It had 28 sacks and finished 65th in the nation in total defense (403.6 yards per game), 74th in rushing defense (170.7 yards per game) and 98th in scoring defense (33.3 points per game).

Some of Oliver's star pupils over the years include former Notre Dame defensive ends Victor Abiamiri and Chris Frome, and former Notre Dame defensive tackles Derek Landri and Trevor Laws.

Abiamiri was selected in 2007 in the second round of the NFL draft by the Philadelphia Eagles, Landri went in the fifth round of the '07 draft to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Laws went in the second round of the '08 draft to Eagles.

"I've known coach Oliver for a number of years from my time serving as a defensive line coach," said London in a release from U.Va.'s athletic department. "He is someone who has always been highly respected in the profession. I think he is a very good fit for our program. He has worked at a number of BCS schools that share the same values as Virginia. He has a reputation for having good relationships with his players. He will also be very effective teaching and coaching Jon Tenuta's systems on defense because of their prior time working together."


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