In this special edition of TURBO we cover what UVA Football has going for them for next season, and some reasons explaining why they may struggle. Special thanks to the NJCAA for permitting use of game footage.
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Welcome to a special edition of TURBO. I’m Matthew and today we’re going to go over 3 reasons why UVA Football will improve from last year, and 3 reasons why… it might not. Let’s get started.
#1 MENDENHALL (#NEWSTANDARD)
Don’t bet against Mendenhall. Bronco Mendenhall has a proven track record of success. As head coach at BYU he didn’t miss a bowl game for 11 straight years. At UVA he’s taken a 2-10 team to a 6-7 team, good for its first bowl game in six years.
More importantly, Mendenhall understands his reality. The Daily Progress reported Mendenhall said, “he had never been more sad in his life” in reference to his first team meeting in 2016 and that the team “Sat with body language that reflected lack of confidence, lack of desire and hopelessness.” He knew fixing UVA Football’s mentally was perhaps priority number 1, and now, in large part due to Mendenhall, the air around UVA Football has shifted.
Upon coming into office new UVA Athletic Director Carla Williams quickly approved an increase in Football’s operating budget. This allowed UVA Football to go from 3 strength and conditioning coaches to 5, and 3 football analysts to 6. UVA also is doing better with recruitment. According to 247 our 2018 recruiting class was nationally rank 60th, 11th in ACC, while our 2019 recruiting class is nationally rank 33rd, 6th in the ACC. This is a massive change, and really demonstrates Mendenhall’s long-term approach to fixing UVA Football.
#2 BIGGER IS BETTER
UVA Football was not big enough for the ACC in 2016. Mendenhall admitted as much.
That off-season the team bulked up big, and their improvement showed in their 6 and 7 season. Now, they’ve done it again. Streakingthelawn.com looked into the size changes from returning players of 2017 vs. 2018 and as a net total returning players gained 375 pounds and new guys gained 198 pounds from their previous weight. So, the old guys are stronger, and the new guys are stronger. Virginia is coming with a new physicality they didn’t have before and with new transfers like defensive lineman Dylan Thomas, the team will be ready to play.
#3 A NEW QUARTERBACK WITH LEGS
So, we have a new quarterback. He’s fast. He’s athletic. He’s Bryce Perkins. And he can use his legs. Essentially the opposite of Kurt Benkert.
Bryce is coming out of Junior College Football where he led his team Arizona Western to his team to 9 and 1, good for second nationally.
Watch what he did in the Junior College finals:
Perkins has some serious athleticism, and can really help Virginia’s run game, given Virginia had the 5th lowest rushing yards per game in the FBS last season.
Also, the man managed to run 22.2 miles per hour! There is so much potential with Perkins with the explosive spark he may provide.
So that all sounds great. What could go wrong?
#1 A NEW QUARTERBACK…?
It’s probably not all upside with Bryce. He’s still unproven in NCAA play and there are some question marks on his accuracy.
In his last season with Arizona Western he had a great completion rate of 63.3% (Kurt Benkert had 58.5% last season), but he still threw more interceptions than touchdowns (7 to 8 for the season), including 3 his opening game of the season.
So while he can do this:
UVA fans should consider proceeding with some caution.
#2 LOST DEPTH
Virginia lost some great players that provided a spark especially on the defensive side of the ball.
The Hoos lost key contributors such as Andrew Brown, Micah Kiser and Quin Blanding. These are talents which are not easily replaced. Coach Mendenhall told the same story after his media availability after their first spring practice,
#3 IT’S STILL VIRGINIA
The theme of these improvements have been future oriented: better recruits, better structure, but they take time.
Virginia is still Virginia and in brutal honesty Mendenhall said “I believe we have 27 ACC-caliber football players on our roster today” to the Daily Progress last June. This didn’t include the transfer students coming in (image included) or the 2018 class, but it’s still fairly damning and shows how far Virginia still has to go.