Head coach Bronco Mendenhall has overseen a resurgence in the Virginia football program, guiding the Hoos to three consecutive bowl games from 2017-2019. The three-year bowl streak included a convinving 2018 Belk Bowl victory and an appearance in the prestigious Orange Bowl. UVA ended Virginia Tech’s Commonwealth Cup streak in 2019 and captured the 2019 ACC Coastal Division title for the first time in school history.
UVA’s on-field progress was evident prior to the coronavirus-impacted 2020 season. The impact was felt off the field as well, on the recruiting trail. Here is a rundown of Virginia football’s first six recruiting classes of the Mendenhall era.
(Note: Mendenhall and company did not recruit most of this class, as Mendenhall was hired in December of 2015, mere months before Signing Day.)
Rivals.com National Ranking: No. 61
– Of the 25 signees, 13 were two-star recruits and 12 were three-star
247Sports.com National Ranking: No. 63
– The average player rating according to 247 was 0.8251.
(Bronco Mendenhall’s first full class as UVA head coach.)
Rivals.com National Ranking: No. 58
– Of the 25 signees, 15 were three-star recruits while 10 were two-star recruits
247Sports.com National Ranking: No. 58
– 247Sports.com Average Player Rating: 0.8313
Rivals.com National Ranking: No. 69
– Of the 20 signees, 15 were three-star recruits while five were two-star.
247Sports.com National Ranking: No. 59
– 247Sports.com Average Player Rating: 0.8445
Rivals.com National Ranking: No. 39
– Of the 23 recruits, three were ranked 4-star prospects, 19 were three-star recruits, and four were 2-star prospects. This was the first class in the Mendenhall era in which UVA landed at least one four-star.
247Sports.com National Ranking: No. 39
– 247Sports.com Average Player Rating: 0.8571
– Defensive tackle Jowon Briggs became the first national top 100 player to sign with UVA in the Mendenhall era.
Rivals.com National Ranking: No. 59
– Of the 16 signees, one is a four-star recruit, 13 are three-stars, and two 2-star recruits
247Sports.com National Ranking: No. 49
– 247Sports.com Average Player Rating: 0.8618
– Offensive lineman Andrew Gentry is another national top 100 player. He enrolls on Grounds in the summer of 2022, following an LDS mission trip.
Rivals.com National Ranking: No. 31
– Of the 24 signees, three are 4-star recruits, 19 are three-stars, and two are 2-stars.
– This is the most highly rated class nationally for Virginia under Coach Mendenhall.
– Rivals.com ranked five Virginia signees in its Virginia Top 25 rankings for the class of 2021.
247Sports.com National Ranking: No. 32
– 247Sports.com Average Player Rating: 0.8617
– The 2020 Class had eight less signees and a higher APR by just .0001. The Hoos almost had another national top 100 recruit, but Bryce Carter finished with a 121 national ranking.
– Five of Virginia’s recruits landed in the 247 Top 500 nationally, the most ever for UVA in the Mendenhall era. The previous high was four in 2019.
– Five in-state recruits landed in 247Sports’ Virginia Top 25 for the class of 2021. In the previous four classes, UVA landed four top 25 in-state prospects combined.
In Virginia football recruiting classes from 2016 through 2020, the 247 Sports average player rating increased every year. The 2016 Class was .82, while each of the past two classes have fallen in the .86 range. There was an insignificant dip – .0001 – from 2020 to 2021, but the 2021 haul was Mendenhall’s most highly rated from a national standpoint. UVA’s first-year class showed quite well in Fall Camp, with seven true freshmen making the depth chart.
According to Rivals rankings, the amount of two-star prospects Virginia has signed has dipped every year of the Mendenhall era. Fifty-two percent of UVA’s 2016 Class were 2-star recruits. The percentage was 40% in 2017 and 25% in 2018. Since 2019, eight of Virginia’s 63 signees have been rated by Rivals as 2-star prospects, and there are no 2-star commitments in UVA’s 2022 Class. If this holds this would be the first time UVA has had no 2-star players in a class in the Mendenhall era according to Rivals.
In short, Virginia recruiting has a higher “floor” now than it had in Coach Mendenhall’s first class. The coaches having a bigger pool of more talented players they can recruit, and with that the coaches are more likely to find the talent they want and less likely to have to reach. (Not all 2-star recruits are “reaches,” mind you, and Mendenhall and company have done well in finding and developing diamonds in the rough.)
The goal is to keep increasing the talent pool. The next step is to have classes like the 2021 Class become the norm, while at the same time ticking upward, constantly improving the pool of talent you are recruiting.
Virginia is on the right track recruiting-wise as we enter Bronco Mendenhall’s sixth season. Staying there is the key, and a successful 2021 campaign would go a long way towards ensuring that happens.