Hometown: Virginia Beach
Make no mistake, Cavalier fans. If the Virginia offense produces at a high level during Bronco Mendenhall’s first season, senior running back Taquan Mizzell will be a big reason why.
The accolades speak for themselves. Last year, “Smoke” broke the ACC record for receiving yards (721) in a season by a running back. His 75 catches were second all-time in one season at UVa. He led UVA in rushing yards (671) and was second in the ACC in all-purpose yards (1,488). He was named third-team All-ACC in 2015, and he’s been named to the preseason watch lists for the Maxwell Award, Biletnikoff Award, and the Senior Bowl. Clearly, the nation’s leading receiver out of the backfield is a force to be reckoned with already. So what can we expect now under new offensive coordinator Robert Anae?
At first glance, Anae’s Air Raid system appears tailor-made for Mizzell and new UVa starting quarterback Kurt Benkert. Both should flourish in the no-huddle, pass-happy attack. Mizzell was listed as the team’s first-string “speed back” in the depth chart released by Mendenhall on Monday, which suggests that “Smoke” should see even more targets out of the backfield this fall. It’s not unreasonable to also expect Mizzell to lead the team and maybe the conference in multiple receiving categories again. He’ll certainly get plenty of touches out of the backfield as well (he had a team-high 163 carries in 2015), meaning that Mizzell could potentially end up in the conversation for ACC offensive player of the year.