Notables From Bronco Mendenhall’s Weekly Monday Press Conference: Mendenhall Talks Armstrong, Defense

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The University of Virginia football program returns to action this week, but will its star quarterback be available when the Hoos host Notre Dame in Scott Stadium this Saturday night at Scott Stadium? Head coach Bronco Mendenhall was asked about this and more when he took the podium for his latest weekly Monday press conference of the 2021 season.

Brennan Armstrong does not have to practice to play in Virginia football’s home game versus Notre Dame. Armstrong, whose status is questionable, suffered an apparent rib injury in the fourth quarter of UVA’s last game against BYU. ~ Photo by Kris Wright/TheSabre.com

Asked directly for an update on Armstrong’s injury, Mendenhall said: “No, I don’t have an update on Brennan. Man, I’m planning on him being our quarterback. Yeah, I probably won’t have an update until the ball is kicked off and we all look out there and see who our quarterback is.”

Mendenhall added: “I don’t really plan to address [Armstrong’s injury] because I don’t think it’ll help you, me, or anyone else in terms of preparation. It helps our football team best to let Brennan heal, recover, and our team get ready to play.”

Questions surrounding UVA’s new single season passing leader continued throughout the press conference. Here are some notable answers on topics related to Armstrong and other Cavalier signal callers:

Preparing other quarterbacks if Armstrong cannot play.

“Yeah, really tricky, and you try not to prepare multiple options,” Mendenhall said. “You try to find everything that’s similar and use all of that. Then if there happens to be a change, you’re ready either way. Especially when — and this is for any team right now at week 10, and especially at the quarterback position — yeah, you do your best for crossovers. Once you start — even with the bye week, once you start designing two different plans you run out of practice time. So that’s kind of just the reality. Prepare multiple options – if happens to be change, ready either way.”

Is Brennan’s availability practice-dependent? Could he play without practicing?

“Brennan has earned every opportunity to play, even if he just looks out over the field from the balcony,” Mendenhall answered. “He trains so hard in mental reps, etc., so it literally is day-to-day, and we’re going to give him every minute right until the ball is kicked off to be our quarterback. The team knows that. I know that. He knows that. He’s earned that chance.”

When Armstrong missed the Wake Forest game in 2020, Lindell Stone was the primary quarterback, but Keytaon Thompson and Ira Armstead also saw playing time at the position. Is this what we can expect if Armstrong is out or is there one player UVA will depend on?

“It’s becoming closer to [using a more traditional one quarterback rather than a multi-faceted approach seen against Wake],” Mendenhall said. “It would be more so that, especially if there is one more year under Jay or Ira’s (Armstead) belt. So that has to mentioned. This isn’t Jay only. We really like Ira and have been using him at other places. As Brennan, right, is re-becoming for this week, right, in the meantime it gives us a chance to play and train other quarterbacks that we really like. So that’s not nearly as much of the hodge-podge-ish that we had a year ago when we were trying to do whatever we could. This is much more intentional, and I think our succession plan is better. And needs to be because it’s year six, right? It has to be. So I feel much better about that.”

What pushed Woolfolk ahead of Armstead at this point?

“Really, similarity to Brennan,” Mendenhall answered. “So less change needed for the offense for Brennan than for Ira. That allows us to train consistently or more consistently. So that doesn’t mean we don’t like Ira because I really do. He throws well and runs well and is active, dynamic. Less alterations for Jay, right, in relation to Brennan than for Ira. So Ira is still training at quarterback, as well as the other positions, but there is more carryover. So that really was one of the main determinants.”

The confident, loose demeanor Jay Woolfolk displayed during the BYU game. The true freshman completed 2-of-5 passes for 35 yards and rushed twice for six yards.

“I’m not sure if you remember when Bryce Perkins went out against Georgia Tech,” Mendenhall said, recalling UVA’s overtime loss in Atlanta in 2018. “We were on the road and Brennan (Armstrong) came in for a series and took the team down and scored a touchdown. He acted like he had just gone to Baskin Robbins and got a milkshake and then came back to the game. It was just like totally fun to him. And Jay, in a good way, is wired similarly, where you almost want to say, You know what this is, right? This is college football. This is a big deal. He’s like — yeah, that would be a mistake. He’s just going out there to play. That endears him to me as a young person, but, man, he’s really capable. Bright, bright future ahead for him.”

Getting Healthy The Defensive Focus During The Bye Week

Armstrong’s status tops Virginia’s list of concerns. The defense, which currently ranks 102 in the nation in points allowed per game (30.3) and 122 in the nation (among 130 FBS teams) in total defense (466.2 yards per game), is high up on the list too, particularly after surrendering 724 yards and 66 points to a BYU offense that was middle-of-the-road in those categories prior to the UVA game.

In the off week, providing a banged-up defense some time to heal was paramount.

“It’s week 10, and no matter what has to be done there is still rest, recovery, and renewal that has to happen,” Mendenhall said when asked about the defensive emphasis in the bye week. Mendenhall saw two key defensive players, Mandy Alonso and Noah Taylor, leave the Georgia Tech game with injuries before gutting out over 60 snaps apiece against BYU.

Bronco Mendenhall discussed the defense during his November 8 press conference ahead of Notre Dame. ~ Photo by Kris Wright/TheSabre.com

“So that was first priority, is getting our players physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy in every possible way we can, and then start to blend in some of the things that need to happen,” Mendenhall continued. “It all appears worse or better right after the game than it really is. You just get to work on the things that need to be corrected, not only from a schematic and coaching standpoint, but then from a playmaking standpoint and then where you’re highlighting and who. So that’s what we’ve tried to do. Different when you have a bye week at week 10 than earlier in the year, so I opted for recovery, renewal, and getting our team as fast and fresh as possible for the last three weeks, which is really a brand new season with every single goal that we set out with at the beginning of the year still available.”

Indeed, Virginia controls its own destiny in terms of winning the Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division. And with Clemson having a down year, the ACC Championship seems a realistic possibility as well. It makes sense to use the bye week to have the players as physically ready for the biggest stretch of the season. But what is the focus in terms of improving the defensive performance in this final stretch?

“I would love to say there is this transformative — really the information has been updated every week,” Mendenhall said. “I’m going to try to frame it as clearly as I can. We’ve had two games that really got away from us, North Carolina and the BYU game. The rest have allowed us to get to the record that we are, including even how maybe we all possibly viewed our loss to Wake Forest. Maybe we’re not viewing it like that anymore, where we probably held them to some of the fewest yards or points all year. So before it becomes this thing, which is easy, especially after the game we just played, right, and I’m not minimizing that, but there have been two that really got away from us. Man, so many things are correctable. The team sees that. I see that. Now it’s consistency and capacity in those settings. The rest of it, man, whatever ranking Wake Forest has now, that becomes the loss where actually the defense in the rest of the time played good enough for us to win with our current model of how we’re playing football. Again, I am not looking to minimize, but I am looking to specify and frame to accurately, which is the very first thing when you’re leading young people and leading a team.”

More Notables: Lavel Davis Jr. Update

Lavel Davis Jr. Likely Out For The Season

Don’t expect to see the 6’7” second-year receiver on the field for the Cavaliers this season. Davis Jr., who enjoyed a breakout true freshman campaign in 2020, suffered a torn ACL in spring practice.

“I don’t think he’s close (to returning),” Mendenhall said. “I think this is — if I’m looking after him like I do and will as my own son, it just doesn’t make sense. Doesn’t mean he’s not willing and trying hard, etc. It’s just the possible gain, which would be significant when we talk about the next three, but contextually and for him and his future, yeah, I don’t see that happening. So, yeah, I’m not putting this in writing and saying this is the declaration of, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me today.”

Attendance

Virginia’s win over Georgia Tech was the most highly attended game in Scott Stadium this year, with a crowd of 45,837. The season opener versus William & Mary drew 42,982 fans. UVA’s three other home games – Illinois, Wake Forest, Duke – drew less than 40,000 fans.

Coach Mendenhall was asked what else, besides winning, can contribute to increasing the fan attendance.

“We’re trying hard to have elite football at UVA and have it invigorate and be an invigorating factor in the community,” Mendenhall began. “Not only UVA, but Charlottesville at large and the Mid-Atlantic reason. I envision that. You’re seeing incremental growth, like I am, right? Right now it’s still conditional on opponent, more than it should be — no, maybe more than we would want it to be, you and I. So still a little more influence in that. Game time certainly matters. What’s really clear to us, and I’ve done it all the studies, the later we play the more people come. The earlier the fewer people come. Everyone has lives with kids playing soccer and basketball and they’re shuttling and yard work, whatever else. But there is incremental growth with each movement in the later a game is. What’s clear to me is that UVA prefers and supports evening games more than early morning or afternoon games. Winning to your point really helps. But we have a saying here, that’s it’s not only what we do, it’s how we do it. I hope there is an acknowledgment, and we’re really trying to do it with really good students and really good people and trying to give back and doing it in a comprehensive way, and maybe over time — you know, this is year six — but our record at home, I was presenting it to our team today because we take a lot of pride in playing at Scott Stadium, is 15th and 16th in the country. Again, I count the Ohio game and Vanderbilt. That’s a home game for me, and so I add that one. It’s not debatable to me, that’s puts as a one of the best home teams in college football. This year we won a couple on the road and back-to-back, so I would love the expectation when folks come to Scott Stadium they’re expecting us to play well and win. Then the game day enhancements that our administration is working on, man, I just think there is this beginning. We’re not there yet. This beginning of, man, what could this be? I think we’re all seeing maybe the next tier of what it could be. I have to do my job, and that’s help us win against, right, the very best teams. Then maybe others who are wondering is it worth it to come? Yeah, they come. My hope is they’ll be glad they did and then we take another jump.”

FULL TRANSCRIPT OF BRONCO MENDENHALL’S NOVEMBER 8 PRESS CONFERENCE, COURTESY OF VIRGINIA ATHLETICS MEDIA RELATIONS

Q. You talked at length in Provo after the game about where the defense needed to improve. During the bye week, how did you balance wanting to give players time off to heal up while wanting to get stuff done and improve in this group?

BRONCO MENDENHALL: I think you addressed the core issue. It’s week 10, and no matter what has to be done there is still rest, recovery, and renewal that has to happen. So that was first priority, is getting our players physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy in every possible way we can, and then start to blend in some of the things that need to happen.

It all appears worse or better right after the game than it really is. You just get to work on the things that need to be corrected, not only from a schematic and coaching standpoint, but then from a playmaking standpoint and then where you’re highlighting and who. So that’s what we’ve tried to do.

Different when you have a bye week at week 10 than earlier in the year, so I opted for recovery, renewal, and getting our team as fast and fresh as possible for the last three weeks, which is really a brand new season with every single goal that we set out with at the beginning of the year still available.

Q. Were the players doing non-physical football stuff and meeting during the week, meeting with the position coaches and so forth?

BRONCO MENDENHALL: The coaches were recruiting most the week, so early in the week we addressed the previous game and then kind of started on some of the corrections needed.

Then the coaches recruited, and then at the end of the week we started kind of addressing some of the corrections but also preparing for Notre Dame. You can get stale working for a new opponent if you go too long, so we wanted to get an extra day or two, but not at the expense of not having as full a roster as we can have.

Q. Is it a bizarre benefit to have three weeks in a row with no conference games, especially with – as you just mentioned – all your goals still there for the taking?

BRONCO MENDENHALL: It’s really strange. It’s hard to always predict, but, man, after nine weeks and sitting at 6-3 after traveling all the way across the country and time zones and all that, and here we are after a bye resetting and reframing for the home stretch, again, with the Coastal Division in our control and with everything else after that in our control.

So that doesn’t mean we’re looking ahead, but as you went big picture, that’s what I’m addressing. Now it’s one game at a time with two at home, which our record has been strong at home.

Q. Obviously Notre Dame is a formidable opponent. Will any personnel decisions you make be with an eye toward the more important games beyond this game?

BRONCO MENDENHALL: Not if I can help it. The only ones, if there is anything that could tie into that, are just players that they might be back and might be at whatever percentage versus a couple more days and they could be at full percentage versus risk of not having them at all for the next couple weeks.

That’s a small percentage with maybe one or two players. There is zero other consideration. Every game is meaningful to us. That would be as close a scenario to your point as I could create.

Q. How fun is it that the games that really matter are the ones that are ahead and those will determine how this plays out?

BRONCO MENDENHALL: It’s really what we all work to and towards going all the way back to the end of the worldwide pandemic season. It doesn’t mean the pandemic and COVID is not still an issue, but, wow, was that a unique season.

So from the minute that season ended, here we are this week 10 with every single thing still available. That’s not a very large percentage of college football teams in that position, and I’m so thankful for the work my team has put in and how hard they’re trying.

Q. Sorry if I missed it, do you have an update an Brennan (Armstrong)? What is his injury and what is his status for this week?

BRONCO MENDENHALL: No, I don’t have an update on Brennan. Man, I’m planning on him being our quarterback. Yeah, I probably won’t have an update until the ball is kicked off and we all look out there and see who our quarterback is.

Q. When you say you don’t have an update, does that mean not one for me, or is there mystery, concern for you guys?

BRONCO MENDENHALL: It means just collectively where I don’t really plan to address it because I don’t think it’ll help you, me, or anyone else in terms of preparation. It helps our football team best to let Brennan heal, recover, and our team get ready to play.

Q. If I could follow up then. When you have a situation where your starting quarterback is dinged up and you don’t have very experienced backup, what’s the challenge for your coaching staff to prepare multiple options per se for this week?

BRONCO MENDENHALL: Yeah, really tricky, and you try not to prepare multiple options. You try to find everything that’s similar and use all of that. Then if there happens to be a change, you’re ready either way.

Especially when — and this is for any team right now at week 10, and especially at the quarterback position — yeah, you do your best for crossovers. Once you start — even with the bye week, once you start designing two different plans you run out of practice time.

So that’s kind of just the reality.

Q. I just wanted to ask you about Notre Dame’s quarterback situation. Jack Coan put together a nice year, but Tyler Buchner has come off the bench at times and given them a spark. What do you see there? What’s the challenging preparing for both options that they have?

BRONCO MENDENHALL: Just what you said. Two distinct styles and they’re becoming more and more specific when they use each quarterback. So you’re not necessarily preparing for two. You’re preparing for the situational usage of different offensive players. When you frame it that way it gives you a better chance to dial in not having to prepare everything but some things for each one.

Like any other really good team and really good coaching staff, man, you use your resources the best you can. I think that’s what Notre Dame is doing.

Q. You talked a little bit about this at the outset. When you have this extra week without an opponent to prepare for last week, how much more in depth are you able to get as it pertains to trying to fix some of the things that availed you defensively?

BRONCO MENDENHALL: Yeah, not as much as you would think, because the self-scout work is so extensive weekly. It didn’t used to be like that because you didn’t have the resources and analysts and the computer technology and the things that expedite planning.

I would love to say there is this transformative — really the information has been updated every week. I’m going to try to frame it as clearly as I can. We’ve had two games that really got away from us, North Carolina and the BYU game. The rest have allowed us to get to the record that we are, including even how maybe we all possibly viewed our loss to Wake Forest. Maybe we’re not viewing it like that anymore, where we probably held them to some of the fewest yards or points all year.

So before it becomes this thing, which is easy, especially after the game we just played, right, and I’m not minimizing that, but there have been two that really got away from a us.

Man, so many things are correctable. The team sees that. I see that. Now it’s consistency and capacity in those settings. The rest of it, man, whatever ranking Wake Forest has now, that becomes the loss where actually the defense in the rest of the time played good enough for us to win with our current model of how we’re playing football.

Again, I am not looking to minimize, but I am looking to specify and frame to accurately, which is the very first thing when you’re leading young people and leading a team.

Q. So we shouldn’t anticipate any major scheme tweaks or anything of that nature?

BRONCO MENDENHALL: No. So there is so much in terms of preparation. First of all, players play as they’re prepared. They always will. I own that completely. Then each side of the ball owns the next level of preparation, and they own that completely. If you said that’s where it stops, that would still be enough.

We added a third layer. Players, if they are unblocked at the point of attack, then we need to make plays. So that’s where the partnership starts to form. So anything where we don’t have the right people in the right place at the right time, then that’s coaching, right, and preparation.

Any time there are people there to make plays, unblocked and in great position and don’t make the play, that then leads to fundamentals, and some of the responsibility has to be claimed for any of us.

And that’s parts of growing young people, too. Our team is doing a really nice job claiming whatever is theirs, but that’s how I do it. I’m responsible for it all, and then it kind of works like that.

So we’re continuing to look at where and are we putting them in the best position possible. If so, great. If not, right, that’s on me and us.

Q. Kind of going off that, when you look at and get a chance to watch some of the games, like Wake Forest and UNC game this weekend, does that kind of contexualize the defensive numbers this year?

BRONCO MENDENHALL: Again, I don’t want this press conference to come across like I don’t want dominant defense in college football. I do. There are some challenges right now. Mobile quarterbacks, the protection rules penalty-wise. That’s really — and RPOs in terms of what’s allowable with guys down field. There are some real challenges in college football.

Wow, a team like Georgia, for instance, who, man, when you look at really the way they addressed it with not only coaching, but, wow, does it go to recruiting, recruiting, recruiting, recruiting, recruiting.

In some cases, like Michigan State, there was 27 players that changed from the transfer portal on their team. 27. So, right, when you start to get spread — I’m talking about college football in general now.

You go to the ACC where there is such parity, especially on the Coastal (Division) side, one matchup or two based on any given week can really affect outcome. We’ve seen that in the Coastal for a number of years.

That’s the best way I can explain it to you, and it’s why I’m unsettled, especially maybe with the oversight that’s going to be now governing transfers and all of that. What’s within the rules and not to entice players to come. Especially when NIL can be part of that. That’s a whole separate issue.

It leads to what you’re saying with possibly the Wake and UNC game, which two years in a row, right, just an amazing game, a battle right to the end. It kind of ends up whoever has the ball last and can make a stop is going to win.

Q. One more from me. I know you talked about it earlier this year, November kind of being a target for Lavel (Davis). How close is he to returning?

BRONCO MENDENHALL: I don’t think he’s close. I think this is — if I’m looking after him like I do and will as my own son, it just doesn’t make sense.

Doesn’t mean he’s not willing and trying hard, et cetera. It’s just the possible gain, which would be significant when we talk about the next three, but contextually and for him and his future, yeah, I don’t see that happening.

So, yeah, I’m not putting this in writing and saying this is the declaration of, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me today.

Q. You have prepared for Sam Hartman and Sam Howell. You seen Brennan every day in practice. I don’t know if you’ve seen much of Kenny Pickett or Devin Leary when scouting other opponents; you’ve also prepared for Cunningham. Is the quarterback play in this league approaching your first year here when there was Deshaun Watson and Lamar Jackson?

BRONCO MENDENHALL: I think everybody is so clear outcome is tied to quarterback play at a disproportionate level. Man, if you’re not exceptional at that position you’re already behind all your opponents.

So then not only do you need one, you need two, because very few teams are making it through with just their starter in full health the entire way.

So I attribute this to the coaches seeing it and then the recruiting and designing systems to fit. And still in my opinion, there is no quarterback in the country doing more for his team and impacting his team more then Brennan is for us.

I don’t know what the criteria is for any of the awards, but it if it goes to who is making the biggest impact on their team, Brennen Armstrong is amazing to me and I don’t think there is anyone better.

And every one of the other quarterbacks you mentioned are very, very, very good. After seeing and watching them they’re all good in their own way and being coached well.

Yeah, what a challenge.

Q. And then I don’t know if this is reading too much into it, but watching the Brigham Young game on television that evening, when Jay (Woolfolk) was warming up after it was clear Brennan (Armstrong was hurt, he had a big grin on his face. Seemed as relaxed as the day a long. Is that the kind of young man and athlete that he is and that you’ve seen in practice?

BRONCO MENDENHALL: I’m not sure if you remember when Bryce Perkins went out against Georgia Tech. We were on the road and Brennan (Armstrong) came in for a series and took the team down and scored a touchdown. He acted like he had just gone to Baskin & Robbins and got a milkshake and then came back to the game. It was just like totally fun to him.

And Jay, in a good way, is wired similarly, where you almost want to say, You know what this is, right? This is college football. This is a big deal. He’s like — yeah, that would be a mistake. He’s just going out there to play. That endears him to me as a young person, but, man, he’s really capable. Bright, bright future ahead for him.

Q. Whether it’s Brennan (Armstrong) or someone else on Saturday, how much less taxing is it on the offensive staff knowing there is so many other playmakers and not have to rely so much on the quarterback if it’s not Brennan?

BRONCO MENDENHALL: Yeah, so much better than years past, right? Again, this has been six years of incremental building to get to this point. Now when you see kind of Devin Darrington emerging Mike Hollins coming back as well, even if he’s in or out, right — as you all know, he had a concussion in the BYU game — but the rest is intact.

So No. 1 if you’re Brennan you’re smiling every play and every day of practice because of the number of passes you have. If you happen to be a younger quarterback coming in you’re still smiling because there are so many other options and you’re not carrying the weight of the entire program. You’re just doing your job; others are doing theirs.

It’s a much better entry point in developing quarterbacks. Much different than when Kurt Benkert arrived, right, and what he was managing. To his credit did a really nice job and is still playing, and I’m so thankful for him. Any other quarterback that starts in our program now, wow, what a different point of reference to launch from.

Q. One more. Is it a situation where he’s going to have to practice to play or just wait, let him rest, and see how he looks on game day?

BRONCO MENDENHALL: Brennen has earned every opportunity to play, even if he just looks out over the field from the balcony. He trains so hard in mental reps, et cetera, so it literally is day-to-day, and we’re going to give him every minute right until the ball is kicked off to be our quarterback.

The team knows that. I know that. He knows that. He’s earned that chance.

Q. You’ve said that the team never looks as good or as bad as you thought in real time when you go back and watch the tape. When you reviewed the BYU game, what did you feel better about than maybe you did immediately afterward? What areas of concern maybe popped up that you weren’t thinking about immediately?

BRONCO MENDENHALL: Yeah, just a couple things pretty easy. Ultimately it’s a results-oriented business. That’s how I’m evaluated and that is how players are evaluated and that is how they are graded. Ultimately players in position finishing plays, and there is about six. If I stretched it, seven.

But what if those seven are all touchdowns or long plays, right, where there is actually someone in position that could make the play but didn’t?

Then it’s, Okay, how can we help at a higher level and schematically what can we do to assist to make sure they can make the play? After that entire game, yeah, about seven plays keep me up at night as to how to address those.

Most of the time I think you’ve heard me say it probably, well, a lot. Three to five plays determine outcome. Even if nothing else changed in that game, which I hope it would because I’m a defensive oriented coach, is the turnovers alone.

So our slow start where the first three series in the game nothing is yielded, there is a turnover, and then the second half when there is two turnovers and they don’t have any, you’re basically describing the outcome of the game with that.

So I don’t know what it would’ve been, 59-58, 61-60, but it wasn’t. I’m responsibly for that. Really it’s about seven critical plays that have to be made.

To BYU’s credit, they made them and designed them to work, right? So give them credit. We just need to keep working on that.

Q. So you’ve certainly made a lot of progress just with attendance and game atmosphere over the last few years. Just wondering what you think are some of the biggest factors in terms of driving that attendance outside of just winning?

BRONCO MENDENHALL: Yeah, I appreciate the question. We’re trying hard to have elite football at UVA and have it invigorate and be an invigorating factor in the community. Not only UVA, but Charlottesville at large and the Mid-Atlantic reason. I envision that.

You’re seeing incremental growth, like I am, right? Right now it’s still conditional on opponent, more than it should be — no, maybe more than we would want it to be, you and I. So still a little more influence in that.

Game time certainly matters. What’s really clear to us, and I’ve done it all the studies, the later we play the more people come. The earlier the fewer people come. Everyone has lives with kids playing soccer and basketball and they’re shuttling and yard work, whatever else.

But there is incremental growth with each movement in the later a game is. What’s clear to me is that UVA prefers and supports evening games more than early morning or afternoon games.

Winning to your point really helps. But we have a saying here, that’s it’s not only what we do, it’s how we do it. I hope there is an acknowledgment, and we’re really trying to do it with really good students and really good people and trying to give back and doing it in a comprehensive way, and maybe over time — you know, this is year six — but our record at home, I was presenting it to our team today because we take a lot of pride in playing at Scott Stadium, is 15th and 16th in the country.

Again, I count the Ohio game and Vanderbilt. That’s a home game for me, and so I add that one. It’s not debatable to me, that’s puts as a one of the best home teams in college football. This year we won a couple on the road and back-to-back, so I would love the expectation when folks come to Scott Stadium they’re expecting us to play well and win.

Then the game day enhancements that our administration is working on, man, I just think there is this beginning. We’re not there yet. This beginning of, man, what could this be? I think we’re all seeing maybe the next tier of what it could be.

I have to do my job, and that’s help us win against, right, the very best teams. Then maybe others who are wondering is it worth it to come? Yeah, they come. My hope is they’ll be glad they did and then we take another jump. That was a long answer. Sorry about that.

Q. Coach, I’m curious, Keytaon (Thompson) in this position, it’s not a gimmick. It’s part of your offense. Does he still work at all with the quarterback group in the quarterback room in those meetings, or because of size of his role does that not happen?

BRONCO MENDENHALL: It doesn’t happen, and he doesn’t need it because we can put him in and he knows the offense so well now from the other positions that you knows what the quarterback does.

So I think you’re right on. As his other stuff has increased he’s held onto that part, but we just don’t need to train him, nor will the volume there be enough to warrant taking away from the other possible usages.

So not like last year where it was a little bit more of that. This isn’t nearly as much.

Q. A year ago you did play a game without Brennan (Armstrong), and obviously the score dictated some of what you did at the quarterback position. Curious right now do you feel like with Jay (Woolfolk) you’re in a better place to play a more traditional backup quarterback, here we go, next man up, or do you think it would still be a hodge podge?

BRONCO MENDENHALL: No, it certainly wouldn’t be a hodge podge. It’s becoming closer to exactly what you’re saying. It would be more so that, especially if there is one more year under Jay or Ira’s (Armstead) belt. So that has to mentioned. This isn’t Jay only. We really like Ira and have been using him at other places.

As Brennan, right, is re-becoming for this week, right, in the meantime it gives us a chance to play and train other quarterbacks that we really like. So that’s not nearly as much of the hodge podge-ish that we had a year ago when we were trying to do whatever we could.

This is much more intentional, and I think our succession plan is better. And needs to be because it’s year six, right? It has to be. So I feel much better about that.

Q. Going off Mike’s last question, what has pushed Jay (Woolfolk) ahead even slightly ahead of Ira (Armstead) and Jacob (Rodreguez) too in that race? I know it’s been tight coming into the season.

BRONCO MENDENHALL: Yeah. Really similarity to Brennan. So less change needed for the offense for Brennan than for Ira. That allows us to train consistently or more consistently. So that doesn’t mean we don’t like Ira because I really do. He throws well and runs well and is active, dynamic.

Less alterations for Jay, right, in relation to Brennan than for Ira. So Ira is still training at quarterback, as well as the other positions, but there is more carryover. So that really was one of the main determinants.

Q. Apart from your concern and sympathy for the media that covers your team sitting outside in a press box when it’s 40 degrees outside, what kind of things does a team do — I know you have heaters and everybody is under the same conditions. What challenges does playing in the cold for the first time really present?

BRONCO MENDENHALL: I would love to give a great answer that has all kinds of scientific and research driven data, which is where I’m comfortable. It’s what you make it, and so we just don’t acknowledge it and it just seems to work better that way.

If the players are afraid to bring it up because I won’t acknowledge it, that means we all deal with it. I’m just comfortable that way, which is probably the worst answer you’ll hear regarding that. That’s the way we do it.

Q. So I guess the next time we’re in your office we’ll see some weatherman books on the tail end of your bookshelves.

BRONCO MENDENHALL: They wouldn’t even get the tail end. They would be off the shelf on the ground somewhere.

Q. You guys have done this effectively with Keytaon (Thompson) and Ira (Armstead) and Jay (Woofolfk) a little bit. You discussed how Notre Dame’s two quarterbacks play so differently. How do you do that without being super predictable based on the personnel on the field? How much do you have to go out of character?

BRONCO MENDENHALL: Yeah, so I think the question is in complements. So for every play that is your primary play, there needs to be another play that if you defend that well, by defending it well the complementary play will hurt that.

That number of plays doesn’t need to expand very much if it’s well thought out and if you have a really good player at quarterback, which most teams do, including Notre Dame.

The number of plays really isn’t where the magic is. It’s the complements and knowing that you can’t overplay, which then highlights the player. Then it becomes matchup oriented.

I think that’s what most people do, because you just don’t have enough time to practice everything.

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