Cavalier Corner

June 2016

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Page 24 of 55

BY BRAD FRANKLIN A LOT HAS CHANGED FOR UVA'S FOOTBALL PROGRAM since the end of the 2015 season last November. And after 15 practices with his team this spring, new head coach Bronco Mendenhall believes the Cavaliers are on their way to having the kind of success fans have long desired. "These kids and this team and this community want good football," Menden- hall said following practice No. 15, which he chose to be a normal practice rather than a true spring game. "They want to play good football. They want to watch good football. And they want to be part of something special." As important as it is for the offense to adjust to Robert Anae's spread system and as vital as it is for the defense to learn Men- denhall's 3-4 scheme, the first step was fo- cusing on the basics. And that foundation will now carry over for the players while they move into the offseason. "They're willing to do what I'm asking them to do to make that happen," Menden- hall said. "And they've done that every day for 15 days. Plenty of work to do, but today was another really good workday. "Getting rid of existing habits, building new habits, at a really high pace with very little drama and just work and excitement, and optimism and hope for the future." There is always work that needs to be done, but Mendenhall — in his first sub- stantial amount of time working with the roster — came away from the final practice pleased with what he saw. "I just liked the consistency of responding to drill after drill after drill without the real highs and the real lows," he said. "Just the consistency. No matter what drill we were doing, from warm-ups to the very end, it was just work. "A big play for one side didn't mean any- one losing confidence or poise on the other side. They're learning to be more resilient and that's what stood out. We have some playmakers on both sides of the ball. We're not very deep, but we're really well con- ditioned. I think we're becoming mentally tough." Resiliency, of course, is something the Cavaliers struggled with in the past. Con- sidering how often they turned the ball over without getting it back (110th nationally in turnover margin) or how often they were penalized (100th nationally in penalty yards per game), changing this mindset will have a dramatic impact on execution. And Mendenhall is already looking for it. "Drawing attention to yourself, body lan- guage that really reflects being affected by outcome, in the heat of battle, you really don't have time to put time and energy into extra things in relation to yourself," he said. "I expect them to manage their emotions [and] apply everything they have within the execution of their assignment technique and for the team. "Everything else is not welcome unless it's celebrating for their teammate. I like positive body language and I like strong people. That's what we're building." Switching to the 3-4 doesn't seem to have had a negative impact on redshirt third-year middle linebacker Micah Kiser and third- year safety Quin Blanding, who finished first and second, respectively, in tackles per game in the ACC last season. But changes

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