Eli Harold calls Maurice Canady “my boy.” Maurice Canady calls Eli Harold “my brother from another mother.”
Virginia head coach Mike London calls the tight duo the future of his defense.
The Cavaliers are 1-0 after squeaking out a 19-16 win over BYU last Saturday at Scott Stadium.
The game’s heroes included junior safety Anthony Harris for blocking a punt and grabbing the interception that set up the winning score, junior running back Kevin Parks for powering his way into the end zone from 13 yards out with 2:36 remaining in the fourth quarter, junior receiver Darius Jennings for sticking a toe in-bounds on an 11-yard touchdown in the third quarter, junior punter Alec Vozenilek for having three of his 13 boots settle inside BYU’s 8-yard line and redshirt sophomore kicker Ian Frye for sneaking a 53-yard field goal just over the crossbar as time expired in the first half.
And then there were the roles played by Harold and Candy, perhaps the youngest of the Wahoos to make significant dents in the game’s outcome.
Harold, a true sophomore defensive end, totaled 11 tackles, registered a team-high two sacks, got another 1.5 tackles for loss and forced a fumble. Canady, a true sophomore defensive back, posted a team-high 13 tackles and broke up a pass.
The Cougars were held to 362 total yards, converted only seven of 23 third downs and completed just 13 of 40 throws.
The contest marked just the second in which Harold and Canady started together. The first? Nov. 3, 2012, when UVa held N.C. State to 216 yards and forced five turnovers in a 33-6 rout at Carter-Finley Stadium.
“They're two guys that played as true freshmen,” London said. “[They] didn't have a whole lot of snaps, but now to their maturation process, we're going to count on them to make plays for us. And I think they answered that question at least for this first game.
“Now for games to come, we're hoping that they can be mainstays and guys that can continue to make plays for us.”
They’re scheduled to start again for this Saturday’s monster home clash with No. 2 Oregon.
As of Tuesday evening, Virginia is a 22-point underdog.
Bring it on, said Harold and Canady.
“I’ve been an underdog for most of my whole life,” Harold said. “I just like proving people wrong. I love when someone tells me I can’t do something when I know I can do it. I just can’t wait to prove people wrong.
“I just really believe we can beat this team.”
Added Canady: “This is something you wait for since you were 16. It’s something that I really made a priority, that I wanted to play the best of the best and this is my opportunity right now.”
They talk similarly because the two are bonded — in talent and growth.
Harold was a 247Sports.com five-star recruit who chose UVa over the likes of Florida, LSU and Arkansas.
He played in all 12 games as a freshman, making that one start in Raleigh. He finished with 36 tackles, including seven for loss (two sacks).
The season was mildly successful but ... “I was like a guppy in a big pond," Harold said. "I was just worried about what everyone was going to say and I was just nervous, scared.”
So he beefed up from 218 pounds to 235, made an immediate connection with new defense coordinator Jon Tenuta and developed new habits.
“A year later, I’ve learned how to watch film,” Harold said. “I’m taking a leadership role. I’m trying to encourage the guys and keep the guys believing because I know that we can do this and I know this will be a special season.”
Canady was a three-star recruit who chose Virginia over the likes of East Carolina, Old Dominion and Delaware.
He played in all 12 games as a true freshman, making starts against N.C. State and Miami. He posted 28 tackles, had two interceptions and earned back-to-back ACC defensive player of the week honors.
The season was highly successful but ... “[it] was kind of a blur,” Canady said. “My whole year was kind of a blur being that I was a true freshman playing.”
So he went from 175 to 190 pounds and now he can function in a linebacker position, a spot he played some Saturday when the Wahoos went into their nickel package.
“Being that I am playing in the box most of the time,” Canady said, “I am trying to gain at least 10 more pounds.”
Which should fit well with the growing relationship he shares with Harold.
“Eli, that’s my brother from another mother,” Canady said. “We’re very close. We’re very competitive in the weight room and in practice. We see who makes the most plays. I think that carries on to game-day.”
Harold said he approached Canady on Tuesday and told him, “We’re going to need you this weekend.”
Canady responded with: “I’m ready.”
“We feed off each other’s energy,” Harold said. “I’m a hype man. He’s a hype man. We got a little handshake we do during the game or whatever.
“Reese is my boy. Being the youngest guy on the team, I don’t think you have to be old to be a leader. Me and him, we try to lead the best way we can and get the guys up.
“Reese is my boy. I love him.”
For his efforts Saturday, Harris was named ACC defensive back of the week on Tuesday. Along with the pick and the punt block, the Chesterfield native made 11 tackles and a sack. Harris was named national defensive player of the week on Sunday. Virginia received two votes for this week’s Associated Press Top 25 Poll. It’s the first time the Cavaliers received such recognition since being ranked No. 24 on Nov. 20, 2011.