Virginia Football Notes: Bronco Mendenhall Pushes Back Against Preseason Predictions

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Quarterback Bryce Perkins totaled 4,299 yards of offense (passing and rushing) and accounted for 33 of Virginia football’s 51 offensive touchdowns in 2019. Those numbers equate to 79.1% of the Cavaliers’ offensive yardage and 64.7% of the team’s offensive touchdowns.

An obvious question regarding Virginia football in 2020 is how the Hoos will replace Perkins’ overwhelming production. In an appearance on The Packer & Durham Show on Friday (June 26), UVA head coach Bronco Mendenhall expressed confidence that the quarterback position is in good hands heading into his fifth season in Charlottesville.

Virginia football head coach Bronco Mendenhall feels good about having Brennan Armstrong and Keytaon Thompson at quarterback in 2020. Armstrong, pictured here throwing a pass against William & Mary last season, has served as Bryce Perkins’ primary backup the past two seasons. ~ Photo by Kris Wright

“I actually love our quarterback position,” Mendenhall told Mark Packer and Wes Durham. “Brennan Armstrong has been Bryce Perkins’ backup, so I felt like we’ve had two really good quarterbacks ready the past two seasons. So Brennan Armstrong I really like. And then we brought in [Keytaon Thompson] from Mississippi State who is more aligned maybe with the Bryce Perkins skill set. I think to win the Coastal and to compete effectively at the highest level of college football, you have to have two quarterbacks, and so that’s what we’ve done. I like the depth, I like the ability, and I’m really encouraged about the possibilities, even though not many people know about either one of ‘em.”

Although the Hoos return the entire starting offensive line, starting running back Wayne Taulapapa and starting receiver Terrell Jana along with nine starters on defense, the loss of Perkins, who signed with the Los Angeles Rams as an undrafted free agent, as well as top wide receivers Hasise Dubois and Joe Reed have preseason prognosticators doubting Virginia’s ability to repeat as ACC Coastal Division champs. In most cases, they doubt UVA can even come close.

Athlon Sports recently published their 2020 ACC predictions. Virginia is picked to finish 5th in the Coastal behind North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Miami and Pitt. Other preseason predictions include …

College Football News – Virginia is picked to finish tied for 3rd in the Coastal with a 4-4 record along with Miami and Pittsburgh, and 7-5 overall.

CBS Sports – UVA is predicted 6th behind Virginia Tech, UNC, Miami, Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech. CBS predicts Virginia to finish 5-7 overall, 2-6 in the ACC.

247Sports – Virginia is picked 7th behind North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Miami, Georgia Tech, Duke and Pittsburgh.

Not so fast on those predictions says Mendenhall, who is confident in the team’s personnel and the established culture.

“From my perspective, I think the culture and the confidence and what we’ve established will hold more than what those that are predicting where we’ll finish in the Coastal before the season will predict, because it’s so quarterback oriented,” Mendenhall said on Packer & Durham. “Our defense is returning lots and lots of experience. Our offensive front – finally – and our defensive front give us a great chance to compete against anyone. I think culturally we’re very, very strong, and that reflects four years worth of work. The biggest question as you mentioned is at quarterback, but confidence is not an issue and self-concept with our team is not an issue. They’re excited and capable and ready and believe they can compete. Quite frankly, we’re disappointed that we lost against Florida in the Orange Bowl and really believe that we had a great chance to win that game. If it’s possible for there to be momentum or confidence gained in defeat, I think that’s what happened in our last football game.”

In the past, and particularly last year when the Hoos were picked as Coastal Division favorites, Coach Mendenhall has emphasized to his team not to pay attention to preseason predictions and accolades. He revealed that he has shared at least one prediction this year with his team.

“I think I saw one article that gave us a one-percent chance to win the Coastal, so I did share that with my team and you can imagine their reaction,” Mendenhall said.

Be sure to listen to Coach Mendenhall’s entire segment on The Packer & Durham Show below.

Briggs Continues Strong Offseason

One of the nine starting defenders returning next season is sophomore Jowon Briggs, who arrived in Charlottesville as a highly regarded defensive line prospect out of Cincinnati, Ohio. He started seven of 13 games played his true freshman season, finishing with 19 total tackles including three tackles for loss and a sack.

Briggs, who has drawn praise from coaches and players as a rising star to watch in the program, tweeted on Friday that he is up to 316 pounds of what appears to be good weight. The 6’1” standout was listed at 295 during his freshman campaign.

Recruiting Dead Period Extended

The NCAA announced on Thursday (June 25) that it has extended a recruiting Dead Period through August 31 for all sports. This means that, through August 31, recruits cannot take official visits to schools, and if they take unofficial visits to schools they cannot interact with coaches.

The full Council and the Council Coordination Committee will continue to review the recruiting dead periods on a regular basis. A dead period precludes all in-person recruiting. Phone calls and correspondence can continue to occur. – an excerpt from the official NCAA release, which you can read in full by clicking here.

The coronavirus has not had much of an impact on Virginia football recruiting in terms of class of 2021 commitments. The Hoos boast 15 commitments, the majority of whom have pledged during the coronavirus shutdowns. The health-related shutdowns have eliminated the staff’s ability to evaluate prospects in person at summer camps, which were canceled, something that impacts evaluating the 2021 class in some fashion but has more of an impact on the staff evaluating the class of 2022 and beyond.

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