When Bronco Mendenhall took over at Virginia, he knew changes would have to be made to make the program more competitive. After a few months on the job, he has identified two positions in which the team is particularly weak and they're fairly important ones.
Mendenhall didn't pull any punches in an interview with The Roanoke Times when talking about how the quarterbacks were handled in the past and the team's lack of future preparations.
“I think, in general, the quarterback position at UVa has been probably the biggest mismanaged position in the program,” Mendenhall said. “This is just an objective assessment in terms of not only who has been chosen to play the position but in the succession planning for the position."
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Mendenhall was also critical of the team's situation on offensive line.
"We’re very thin on the offensive line. I like a lot of our [linemen], but we’re not very deep. That has also been a succession-planning issue. With the quarterbacks, that’s two of the things we saw immediately in coming here."
Developing depth at quarterback and on the offensive line will take years of recruiting, but Mendenhall must also find short-term solutions for the next few seasons. With that in mind, Mendenhall added transfer quarterback Kurt Benkert to the roster in the spring. Seniors Matt Johns and Connor Brewer are expected to compete for the starting quarterback job this fall, but both players are in their final year of eligibility.
Benkert transfered from Easrt Carolina with two years of eligibility remaining and looks like the early favorite to take over in 2017 after Johns and Brewer have left.
“You’re talking about a guy [Benkert] that has two years to play and that bridges a gap,” Mendenhall said. “We’re not just talking about this year’s team. We’re talking about roster management and succession planning so we always have a great quarterback. We wouldn’t have considered [a quarterback] who only had one year remaining. That would have made no sense.”
Mendenhall also touched on the need for a mobile quarterback who could mitigate the team's lack of depth in the trenches.
“As soon as a quarterback shows some mobility, stress is taken off the offensive line. Plays can be extended. Points can go up. After assessing our two quarterbacks in the spring, we were looking for a mobile option. That’s not at the expense of throwing the football. It means we wanted both.”
Johns has shown some spurts of mobility in the past, but former head coach Mike London favored a more pocket-passing style of offense. Mendenhall certainly differs from that approach as both his comments and his past history with quarterbacks such as Taysum Hill has shown. Just how effective Johns can be as a dual-threat quarterback remains to be seen, but it is an interesting solution for a team hoping to show progress under a new coach in 2016.
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