Def. Coordinator/Defensive Backs Coach
Having coached or played in 11 postseason bowl games, Al Golden is in his fifth year as UVa's defensive coordinator. This fall, Golden shifts from coaching the inside linebackers to focus on the secondary.
Golden, who was instrumental in installing the 3-4 system in Charlottesville in 2001, is just starting to reap its rewards. No defense in the country has shown more improvement over the last four years than the Virginia Cavaliers. In 2001, the Cavalier defense was ranked 108th in the nation in total defense. Last season, having leap-frogged 90 programs, the Cavaliers finished the season ranked 18th nationally. In addition, in the four years since Golden has taken over as the defensive coordinator, the Cavaliers have gone from 74th (27.6 ppg) in the country in scoring defense to 17th (17.7 ppg).
Golden is ahead of the learning curve as it relates to the mystique of the 3-4 defense. In the 2001 season, there were only three NFL teams that ran the 3-4 defense. In 2005, there may be as many as 11 NFL teams operating the 3-4. The trickle down effect to the collegiate level is notable as more college teams are employing 3-4 alignments.
Golden coached UVa's inside linebackers from 2001-04. Last season he oversaw a defense that featured the nation's best group of linebackers, according to Athlon, The Sporting News, and ESPN The Magazine. Under his guidance, Ahmad Brooks blossomed into a finalist for the 2004 Butkus Award. In 2003, Golden helped Brooks and Kai Parham earn Freshman All-America honors. Brooks totaled a team-high 117 tackles, the most in school history by a freshman. He tied for fourth in the nation among freshmen with an average of nine tackles per game. Parham finished third among ACC rookies (14th nationally) with an average of 6.8 tackles per game.
In 2002, Golden was responsible for recruiting Ahmad Brooks, the USA Today National Defensive Player of the Year- the highest ranked recruit to ever attend UVa. Golden has signed the Virginia high school Player of the Year two of the last three years (Ahmad Brooks, 2002; Olu Hall, 2004).
During his first two seasons at Virginia, Golden helped develop two-time All-ACC linebacker Angelo Crowell. As a senior in 2002, Crowell established a UVa season record for tackles (155) for the second year in a row. He finished his career as the third-leading tackler in school history with 425 stops and played in the 2003 Senior Bowl. Golden also coached linebacker Merrill Robertson, who had a career-high 122 tackles as a senior three years ago and played in the 2003 Hula Bowl.
Golden has coached nine All-Conference selections in his 10 years as a collegiate coach. Virginia's youthful defensive unit made tremendous strides in 2003. Over the last three games of the season, the defense held Georgia Tech's P.J. Daniels--the ACC's leading rusher--to 76 yards and shut down Heisman Trophy finalists Kevin Jones (Virginia Tech) and Larry Fitzgerald (Pittsburgh). On its way to helping the Cavaliers recapture the Commonwealth Cup from Virginia Tech, the UVa defense limited Jones to 75 yards on 25 carries (3.0 avg.).
Against Pitt in the 2003 Continental Tire Bowl, Virginia kept Heisman Trophy runner-up Fitzgerald from extending his NCAA-record streak of 18 consecutive games with at least one touchdown. The consensus All-American finished with 75 yards receiving, his second-lowest total of the year. The Cavaliers set the defensive tone early in the first quarter of that game with a spirited goal line stand, stopping the Panthers on four consecutive plays from the one-yard line.
For the season, the Cavalier defense recorded two shutouts for the first time since 1998. Thanks in large part to an opportunistic defense that posted a league-high 35 takeaways (22 fumble recoveries and 13 interceptions) during the 2002 regular season, the Cavaliers ranked tied for second in the ACC and tied for 14th nationally with a +13 turnover margin.
Named the Cavaliers' defensive coordinator in January 2001, Golden was the youngest defensive coordinator in the nation at 31 years of age. In his first season, Golden coordinated a Virginia defense that ranked second in the ACC and 11th nationally with 18 interceptions; second in the ACC and 18th nationally with 28 takeaways; and third in the conference in fumble recoveries (10) and red zone defense.
Following the 2001 season, Golden was an assistant coach on the Gray team in the 64th Annual Blue-Gray All-Star Football Classic, held December 25, 2001, in Montgomery, Ala.
The 36-year old Golden came to Charlottesville from his alma mater, Penn State, where he served as linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator under Joe Paterno in 2000. Before that, Golden was the linebackers coach at Boston College for three seasons (1997-99) under former UVa assistant Tom O'Brien. While at BC, Golden coached All-Big East and NFL linebackers Frank Chamberlin (Tennessee Titans) and Erik Storz (Jacksonville Jaguars). The Eagles finished the 1999 regular season with an 8-3 record and a top-25 national ranking, while making their first postseason bowl appearance since 1994.
No stranger to UVa, Golden was a graduate assistant on George Welsh's Virginia staff from 1994-96, where he worked primarily with the linebackers and the kickoff and punting teams. Virginia played in a postseason bowl game in each of those years and won a share of the 1995 ACC Championship. Golden helped develop All-ACC linebackers James Farrior and Jamie Sharper, both of whom were chosen in the 1997 NFL draft. Farrior was a first-round pick (#8) by the New York Jets, while Sharper was a second-round selection (#34) of the Baltimore Ravens.
Golden earned his bachelor's degree from Penn State in pre-law in 1991 and received his master's degree in sport psychology from UVa in December of 1996.
The native of Colts Neck, N.J., lettered three years in football at Penn State (1989-91). He was a two-year starter at tight end and played in four bowl games during his collegiate career. As a junior in 1990, Golden played a key role in Penn State's nationally-televised 24-21 upset of No. 1-ranked Notre Dame at South Bend. His touchdown reception late in the fourth quarter tied the score at 21 as Penn State rallied from a 21-7 deficit. Golden captained the Nittany Lions his senior year and helped lead them to a 42-17 win over Tennessee in the 1992 Fiesta Bowl. Following that victory, Penn State finished with an 11-2 record and ranked third in the nation in the final 1991 AP poll. Penn State compiled a 20-4 record during Golden's final two seasons as a player. In the spring of 2004, Golden was inducted into the Jersey Shore Sports Hall of Fame.
Golden received the 1991 Ridge Riley Award, given annually to a Penn State player who displays excellence in scholarship, sportsmanship, friendship and leadership. Following graduation, he spent one season with the New England Patriots.