The Virginia football team took a short break after finishing the regular season with a 6-6 record before starting its bowl preparation. How short? The Hoos were back into strength and conditioning mode Wednesday.
— Virginia Football (@UVa_Football) November 29, 2017
Of course, the short turnaround isn’t surprising. UVA coach Bronco Mendenhall made his intentions clear after Friday night’s game with Virginia Tech. In an answer evaluating the program’s progress this season, he quickly turned the attention to the work ahead vs. the work in the rearview mirror.
“We’re making steady and consistent progress and we have significant work to do,” Mendenhall said. “I’m really relishing the chance to be with my team more now all the way up to the bowl game to develop and develop and develop and develop and develop. This is not a time off. They’re going to be tired and they need to be.”
Like most things in the Mendenhall era, he already has a specific plan in place for the weeks between the final regular season game and the eventual bowl destination. He divided that approach into three components: recruiting, player development, and game preparation.
Mendenhall indicated that the assistant coaches hit the road for a heavy work-load of in-person recruiting. That phase is particularly important now with football’s new early signing rules now in place. That period falls from Dec. 20-Dec. 22 this year. With many coaches on the road at varying times, the player development phase falls onto the plates of Mendenhall, offensive coordinator Robert Anae, and director of football performance Frank Wintrich working with a rotating “skeleton” support staff pending recruiting schedules. That phase amounts to an “extra spring practice” for younger players in the program.
Finally, once the opponent and date becomes more clear, the model shifts into “schematic preparation” for the bowl game. The College Football Playoff selections and remaining bowl matchups will be made Sunday.
While nothing official will come out until the weekend, all signs seem to point to a Virginia-Navy matchup in the 2017 Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman. The official VirginiaSports.com bowl ticket information lists several possible sites, but singles out just the Military Bowl with a section titled “If Virginia is selected for the Military Bowl” on the page. The Roanoke Times and Richmond-Times Dispatch published articles suggesting that destination as the likely favorite as well. The Capital Gazette reported that Navy is likely headed there as well.
Also, some UVA fans emailed the Military Bowl and received a response saying:
Thank you for your email. Virginia is a very attractive team to our bowl and we expect the Cavaliers would be well supported if they come to our game. We will be making our selection on Sunday and if U-VA is our choice, we hope to see you in Annapolis on the 28th. We will be sure to check in with George Welsh to see his availability for the 28th! Let us know if you have any questions.
Welsh, of course, led Virginia to great success as its head coach from 1982-2000. When he retired, he was the winningest coach in ACC history with 134 wins at UVA. He earned ACC Coach of the Year honors in 1983, 1984, 1991 (also named National Coach of the Year), and 1995. Prior to taking the job with the Cavaliers, Welsh helmed Navy’s program and won 55 games. He also played quarterback at Navy and finished third in the 1955 Heisman Trophy voting.
Mendenhall is looking forward to the bowl game no atter where it sends the Hoos.
“We have a chance to develop young players, rest some older ones, recruit like crazy all at the same time, and we get a chance to play one more game,” Mendenhall said. “I would love the chance to have these guys win and be successful one more time. It’s not the same program it was a year ago. The results certainly show that. And I think it’s just the beginning.”