With UVA’s season finally upon us, I wanted to look at what this team has to offer this season. The University of Virginia football program has not been much of a threat within the college football world, and while this year may not be any different they have significant strides towards improvement. This is evident from UVA’s horrendous 2-10 record during the 2016 season and then turning that around and going to a bowl game in the 2017 season (although they got crushed, reaching the bowl game was a victory in and of itself).
Since the departure of Mike London, Coach Bronco Mendenhall has made numerous improvements in not only the recruiting of talent but also their development. Mendenhall has taken 3-star recruits in the hopes of developing them into 4-star talent. Mendenhall’s coaching approach is unique in that he gives his players books to read and he has called himself, “an introverted, deep thinker who is in an extroverted entertainer’s job”. Regardless of his methodology, this is the same man who took BYU to 11 straight bowl games and the hope is he can do that with Virginia.
To be blunt UVA’s offense was really bad last season and a lot of those same pieces are returning this year as well, so it’s hard to see how much improvement there will be. UVA’s pass game was the only thing keeping them alive last season; Kurt Benkert wasn’t great but he was able to get the ball out of his hands quickly and efficiently to one of 3 receivers (Zachheaus, Dowling and Levrone) and with 2 of those guys gone it will be interesting to see who will open up. This could allow for slot receivers Dubois and Reed (noted for his explosiveness) to get open deep.
UVA went 5-1 (primarily due to great passing offense) in their first six games last season and then proceeded to go 1-6 in the last seven games; this was because their run game went from bad to tragic. In the last 2 games of the season, primary rusher Jordan Ellis had 21 carries for 46 yards. Hopefully with the transfer of JUCO QB Bryce Perkins this could change. Perkins completed 63% of his passes and rushed for 353 yards in 10 games for Arizona Western last year. Perkins mobility will be vital in getting the read-option game going as well as providing good misdirection so guys like Ellis can get more yards.
Last year pass defense was the highlight of UVA’s team, partly due to good pass rushing and nice work by the DB’s. We will see how the rush defense does this season with some new guys up front. UVA is only losing lead tackler Micah Kiser and safety Quin Blanding but there is plenty of depth at both positions for this not to be an issue. CB’s Tim Harris (as long as he stays healthy), Juan Thornhill, Bryce Hall and Myles Robinson are expected to be big performers this upcoming season. As long as their players stay healthy the UVA secondary shouldn’t have much to worry about.
So although we can’t be certain of how well UVA will do, one thing fans can be certain of is the singing of the Good Ole Song every time they score!