Visits to Charlottesville have not often been fruitful for the Jackets
Over the last three seasons, the Yellow Jackets have ranked in the Top 30 nationally in total defense, scoring defense, rushing defense and pass efficiency defense each year., including 20th or higher against the run all three years.
Tenuta assembled another outstanding defense in 2006, despite losing six starters from the previous year. Last year's unit ranked ninth in the nation in pass efficiency defense, 20th in rushing defense, 27th in total defense and 27th in scoring defense. The Tech defense held eight opponents to one offensive touchdown or less.
From last year's Tech defense senior tackle Joe Anoai and junior safety Jamal Lewis were named first-team all-Atlantic Coast Conference, linebacker Philip Wheeler and defensive end Adamm Oliver, both juniors, made the all-ACC second team, and senior linebacker KaMichael Hall earned honorable mention recognition.
In Tenuta's first five seasons, 15 Yellow Jacket defenders have earned first or second-team all-ACC recognition, and 15 players from his first four units have either been drafted or signed NFL free agent contracts.
In 2005, defense keyed the Jackets' road victories at Auburn and Miami in 2005 as Tech allowed a combined total of 80 yards rushing to the two Top 10 teams while collecting 10 sacks and forcing six turnovers. Tech held the Hurricanes to 237 total yards and 1-for-14 on third downs, while limiting Georgia, another Top 10 foe, to 266 total yards. Following the Miami game, Tenuta was named National Coordinator of the Week by Rivals.com as well as National Defensive Coordinator of the Week by the Master Coaches Survey. Tenuta's unit grabbed 21 interceptions, the most by a Tech defense since 1990, and led the ACC in turnover margin.
The 2005 defense featured a trio of all-ACC honorees in defensive end Eric Henderson, a three-time selection, linebacker Gerris Wilkinson, a two-time all-ACC pick, and safety Dawan Landry, honored for the first time. All three have moved on to the National Football League. Wilkinson was drafted by the New York Giants in the second round and Landry was selected by Baltimore in round four. Henderson signed as a free agent with the Cincinnati Bengals, as did safety Chris Reis with the Atlanta Falcons, cornerback Reuben Houston with Tampa Bay and cornerback Dennis Davis with Oakland.
Tech's 2004 defense, which started only one senior, ranked 12th in the nation in total defense at 297.9 yards per game. The Jackets also stood 13th in rushing defense, 21st in pass defense and 21st in scoring defense and held five teams to one offensive touchdown. That unit was led by standout free safety James Butler, a first-team all-Atlantic Coast Conference selection and semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's top defensive back for the second straight year.
Butler now plays for the New York Giants. From Tech's 2003 defense, linebacker Daryl Smith was a second-round selection by Jacksonville and linebacker Keyaron Fox was a third-round pick by Kansas City. Tony Hargrove, a defensive end for Tenuta in 2002, was drafted in the third round by St. Louis.
Tenuta's defensive unit also performed very well in 2003, particularly in victories over bowl-bound Auburn (three points, 230 yards allowed) and Maryland (three points, 253 yards) and a one-point loss to ACC champion Florida State (251 yards). Tech led the ACC and ranked 12th in the nation in rushing defense while ranking 20th in total defense and 27th in scoring defense.
Tech's 2003 defense featured three first-team all-ACC selections in Fox, who led the league in tackles, Henderson, who led in sacks, and Butler, who was second in the ACC in interceptions. Two Tech defenders also earned all-ACC honors in 2002 in free safety Jeremy Muyres and linebacker Recardo Wimbush.
Tenuta came to Tech in 2002 after one season at North Carolina, which he guided to become the top-rated defense, statistically, in the ACC in 2001. Under Tenuta, the Tar Heels led the ACC in total defense and pass defense while ranking third in run defense and scoring defense. Two members of that defense were first-round picks in the 2002 NFL draft.
Tenuta previously served as a defensive coordinator at five other schools, including Marshall (1987), Kansas State (1988), SMU (1990-94), Ohio State (2000) and North Carolina (2001).
He helped develop several defensive backs into NFL players, including first-round draft picks Shawn Springs, Antoine Winfield, Ahmed Plummer and Nate Clements from Ohio State. Springs was the 1996 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and a first-team all-America, while Winfield won the 1998 Jim Thorpe Award.
Ohio State's pass defense was consistently ranked among the nation's best during Tenuta's tenure.
Tenuta began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Virginia (1981-82) and Maryland (1983), and then served as an assistant coach at Vanderbilt (1984-85), Marshall (1986-87), Kansas State (1988), SMU (1989-94) and Oklahoma (1995). At SMU, Tenuta was the defensive backs coach in 1989 before being promoted to defensive coordinator in 1990. At Ohio State, he was the defensive backs coach from 1996-1999 before being elevated to the defensive coordinator post in 2000.
A native of Columbus, Ohio, Tenuta is a graduate of Virginia. He lettered three years as a defensive back for the Cavaliers and earned the team's John Acree Memorial Football Trophy and Kevin Bowie Award.
Tenuta and his wife Dori have three sons, Zach, Matt and Luke.