In what has been a disappointing season, Virginia football has not had many reasons to smile. Many hoped to see a new wave of confidence and play that has eluded the Cavaliers (2-7, 1-4 ACC) for the past few seasons. And while there have been improvements on both offense and defense this past year, the results have not translated into many wins.One consistent player who continues to play at a high level is junior inside linebacker Micah Kiser. Kiser was a 2016 semifinalist for the Butkus award, which is given to the best linebacker in the country. That speaks to not only Kiser’s ability, but also his leadership. For the second straight year, Micah Kiser has been a staple for the middle of the Cavalier defense. He is all over the field, making tackles on run, pass and trick plays. He has the speed to rush the passer, as he showed against then-No. 5 Louisville a couple of weeks ago. He had a career game, with two sacks and a fumble recovery against the Cardinals and Heisman frontrunner Lamar Jackson. In six of the nine games so far this season, Kiser has exceeded 10 total tackles. Kiser is also rushing the passer better than almost any Cavalier. His 6.5 sacks represent his ability to get past blocks and chase down faster quarterbacks.Kiser’s tremendous season has not gone without the notice of coach Bronco Mendenhall. Mendenhall commented on his middle linebacker’s impact along with another defensive leader, junior safety Quin Blanding, in his Monday press conference.“Micah and Quinn are excellent football players, would be strong contributors and producers on any team that they played for,” Mendenhall said. “They both are consistent. They both are resilient. They both have very strong leadership, and they’re both very, very good tacklers, and we’re playing them in positions where they’re able to make plays on both sides of the football. Meaning, the more you are aligned over the ball, the more you can make plays right or left. And we did something similar with [Brian] Urlacher at New Mexico.” Quite the comparison for Kiser to be compared to a potential future Hall of Fame linebacker in Urlacher. Mendenhall has clearly benefited from having such dynamic and experienced leaders on his defense to help develop other, younger players in his new system. Kiser has shown poise and patience in his play throughout the season. It is refreshing to see a talented player perform at his highest level and continue to be successful in a forgettable season.“They are setting a culture for amazing numbers of youthful players around them, and really showing them not only how to play Division I football, but to play really good Division I football from a defensive perspective,” Mendenhall said. Mendenhall is also confident Kiser’s influence will be felt after he leaves the University. He compared his linebacker’s impact back to Urlacher’s impact on his New Mexico teams back about 20 years ago.“He was never a part of a winning team there as a starter,” Mendenhall said. “What was interesting though is when he left all the younger guys that were around him, they’ve then won six, they’ve won seven and they then won eight.”Kiser is on pace to exceed 130 total tackles this season, with the final home game of the season approaching this weekend. Kiser’s impact has been influential in the improvement of the defensive play this year, and hopefully will continue to have an impact long after his years at Virginia are over.