Cavalier Corner

April 2018

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Page 19 of 95

20 CAVALIER CORNER BY BRAD FRANKLIN B EFORE HIS TEAM HAD the chance to even take the field at the McCue Center to start its first practice, Bronco Mendenhall was obviously very aware of the task ahead of the Wahoos this spring. Losing quar- terback Kurt Benkert, defensive lineman Andrew Brown, safety Quin Blanding and linebacker Micah Kiser would be a blow to any program, but especially to one that is just getting its legs under- neath it like Virginia is at this point. "I've been trying to express this best and simple, and I think the best way is that we have the primary positions on our team of leadership and influence, we are approaching those and are in a position at those positions to be year one at UVA with the expectations of a program that is going into year three," Mendenhall explained. "At quarterback, at middle linebacker and at free safety — which are the three most impactful positions on our team and in our sys- tems — those are all being replaced. "However, what I expect and what our team expects and what we're hold- ing ourselves accountable to is per- forming as a football program that's in year three, not year one," he added. "So that's the unique stress point and friction involved in bringing those two things together as fast as we can." The Cavaliers will have many objec- tives this spring and at the top of the list will be installing an offense that is unlikely to look much like the one Ben- kert led the past two years. In a move that Mendenhall feels is a necessity, Virginia will use a dual-threat quarterback and look to create more on the ground. "It's what I think is necessary for this pro- gram at this time, to compete in the ACC and reach our goals and within the time frame we all want," he said. "Once a quarterback has 'escapability' and mobility, that is a different defensive structure that it takes to defend that. "The ability to create usually gives you the chance to still have performance and still have generation of yards and points, even if sometimes the execution elsewhere doesn't keep up with it. So, that's kind of how and why it's gotten to this point." Enter Bryce Perkins, a 6-3, 215-pound dual-threat quarterback who started his career at Arizona State before starring at Arizona Western Community College last year. He's now atop the depth chart at UVA after enrolling in January and going through offseason conditioning with the team. Having him available this spring is a big positive for both Perkins and the team. "There is no way to quantify that," Mendenhall said. "It's a huge, huge advantage to be here for not only spring practice but for the offseason, to be ac- climated into the training, into the team, into the culture, get the conditioning, have an early shot at the install of what the system might look like, and then get the chance to play for basically a month or a month and a half, get all the feed- back from that, and then go through the summer before fall camp. "It really accelerates, I think, the growth by an entire year and I think the chance to be successful in year one is much more likely with a spring practice than without it at quarterback." His skill set is such that Perkins, a third-year, will be tasked with doing a little bit of everything during his time on Grounds. A gifted runner who can also throw down field, Mendenhall said he's al- ready shown the way he fits in the program. "He tries really hard, he wants to be one of the team — not 'the' team — and he sets the standard by leading from the front, which means in sprints he's ahead, in condi- tioning he's ahead, in the competitive work we do he's completely immersed," Men- denhall said. "From a physical, mental and leadership standpoint, he looks like the ideal Bryce Perkins, a 6-3, 215-pound dual-threat quarterback who started his career at Arizona State before starring at Arizona Western Community College last year, is on track to take over under center for Virginia in 2018. PHOTO BY JIM DAVES/COURTESY UVA 2018 UVA SCHEDULE Date Opponent Sept. 1 Richmond Sept. 8 at Indiana Sept. 15 Ohio Sept. 22 Louisville Sept. 29 at NC State Oct. 13 Miami Oct. 20 at Duke Oct. 27 North Carolina Nov. 2 Pittsburgh Nov. 10 Liberty Nov. 17 at Georgia Tech Nov. 23 at Virginia Tech FILLING THE GAPS Bronco Mendenhall And The Cavaliers Will Have A Busy Spring

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