Cavalier Corner

April 2017

Cavalier Corner is the publication just for UVa sports fans!

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 20 of 31

APRIL 2017 ◆ 21 Auburn, Duke, Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Miami and Mississippi State, among others. He caught 44 passes for 399 yards and two touchdowns last fall, while also rushing 29 times for 149 yards and three scores in addition to returning one kick for a TD as well. The 6-3, 170-pound Pratt hails from Ol- ney (Mad.) Our Lady of Good Counsel, where he was a three-time all-conference selection. He capped his career there with a solid senior season, catching 16 passes for 245 yards and two touchdowns in 2016. Pratt also is a two-time All-American and conference MVP on the track. Among his accomplishments, he broke the Maryland state record in the 200-meter dash with a time of 20.94 last summer, which tied for the fourth fastest nationally by a prep junior. The Cavaliers tried to address numbers is- sues on the defensive line by signing Miami Gulliver Prep tackle Mandy Alonso, Sterling (Va.) Dominion tackle Tommy Christ and Knoxville (Tenn.) Central end Isaac Buell. Alonso was a first-team All-Dade County selection after racking up 52 tackles, 24 stops for loss, nine sacks and eight forced fumbles as a senior. At 6-2, 275 pounds, he'll likely figure into the mix at nose tackle for the Cavaliers. The 6-5, 270-pound Christ was UVA's first commit in the class and stuck with the Hoos the entire way. He was a first-team Virginia 4A all-state pick on both the of- fensive and defensive lines, a USA Today Virginia first-team selection on the offensive line, the Conference 21-B Defensive Player of the Year, a first-team Washington (D.C.) All-Met choice on the offensive line and the All-Loudon County Defensive Player of the Year. He recorded 79 tackles, 13 sacks, four forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, nine passes broken up and one interception as a senior. Buell, a 6-4, 260-pounder, racked up 107 tackles and 16.5 sacks during his senior campaign. And in signing kicker/punter Brian Del- aney, the team may have addressed its biggest need. The 5-11, 200-pounder from Chantilly, Va., handled both duties for Westfield High this season, which ended with a 6A title game win in Scott Stadium. Delaney was the Virginia 6A first-team All-State punter and kicker two years in a row, and he was chosen as an Under Armour All-American. "These kids fit really well at UVA, mean- ing their grades are very, very good, their character is very, very good, and they're very good players," Mendenhall said. "We need more size, we need more strength, we need more athleticism, and we need more depth. This class addresses all that." ◆ FOCUS IS SOLELY ON EXECUTION DURING SPRING BALL A year ago, Bronco Mendenhall and his new coaching staff at Virginia knew they had a lot of work to do. The start of the rebuilding process was going to have to include a change in mindset and an adoption of Mendenhall's "will before skill" mantra. This year, as he set out to enter his second spring on Grounds, his team's focus shifted to allowing execution to catch up with its culture. "We've been working at a fevered pace this offseason after learning a lot about our team, our program, our conference, our strengths and our needs after one year's time in Charlottesville," he said in late March before the start of UVA's month-long spring practice period. "There's been an increased emphasis in our pro- gram on developing size, strength, as well as getting an early start on fundamentals." That the development of team culture was ahead of execution was "intentional," Mendenhall explained, because he's looking to build something that is "lasting and sustainable." With much of that now in place, the Cavalier must be pushed to be much better in all areas of the game following their 2-10 season in 2016. "At this point, the next step is increased emphasis on playing the game itself, all the fundamentals that are required to play the game as well as the execution and the execution within context of games," he said. "There's relentless effort on building our roster and recruiting and the talent acquisition part." Given the team's struggles offensively last fall, it's no surprise that many will be keyed in on the quarter- backs this spring where fourth-year Kurt Benkert returns as the presumptive starter. He'll be backed up by second-year De'vante Cross, a dual-threat QB who redshirted in 2016. The program will add two important pieces this summer in dual-threat Missouri transfer Marvin Zanders and incoming first-year Lindell Stone. The Cavaliers must also replace Taquan Mizzell as well as three starting offensive linemen. The beginning of that process this spring will be difficult given the limited numbers up front: Though UVA is set to add three graduate transfers as well as five 2017 recruits this summer, the depth will be limited for now. The offense will also be without fourth-year wide receiver Doni Dowling following offseason shoulder surgery. Defensively, the Wahoos will bring back fourth-year outside linebacker Malcolm Cook following a heart issue that robbed him of the 2016 season. Fourth-year defensive end Andrew Brown will be held out this spring following shoulder surgery, but Mendenhall has a bevy of talent to see. He'll be looking to find a nose tackle and a starting inside linebacker following the transfer of promising first-year Landan Word. The Hoos will be deep in the secondary, welcoming fourth-year Tim Harris back at corner and moving standout third-year Juan Thornhill from corner to safety. — Brad Franklin 2017 UVA SCHEDULE Date Opponent Sept. 2 William & Mary Sept. 9 Indiana Sept. 16 Connecticut Sept. 23 at Boise State Oct. 7 Duke Oct. 14 at North Carolina Oct. 21 Boston College Oct. 28 at Pitt Nov. 4 Georgia Tech Nov. 11 at Louisville Nov. 18 at Miami Nov. 24 Virginia Tech After spending his first year in Charlottesville changing the culture of the program, head coach Bronco Mendenhall has switched the emphasis to spending more time on teaching the fundamentals of the game. PHOTO BY JIM DAVES/COURTESY UVA

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Cavalier Corner - April 2017