Earlier this morning, we took a look at a few reasons why, although Virginia Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall seems to be moving the program in the right direction, there are still plenty of reasons to give you pause heading into fall camp, which started today. But it’s not all doom and gloom, and there are lots of reasons why you should be excited for the upcoming season. And who knows, Mendenhall really could just continue to keep his bowl game streak alive.
1) Virginia’s coaching staff has been upgraded significantly.
Mendenhall coached BYU for 11 years and racked up 11 winning seasons and 11 bowl games. He’s earned a reputation as a coach who gets the most out of his players and who maximizes the talent he has around him. Mendenhall brought 7 assistants with him from Provo, and all impressions so far point to a high level of staff cohesion. In addition, he was able to snag former East Carolina head coach Ruffin McNeil. The addition of “Coach Ruff” is widely considered to be a home run.
The Cavaliers shot themselves in the foot too often during the Mike London era. Chronic issues with turnovers, penalties, miscommunication, and questionable planning sucked the wind out of the program and left players and fans disaffected. If past performance is any indicator, Mendenhall’s staff should provide instant improvement.
2) Virginia’s culture has changed for the better.
Mendenhall has brought an “earned not given” culture with him to Charlottesville. Players had to “earn” the right to have spring practice by completing winter workouts. They had to “earn” the right to wear V-Sabres after training in grey and black sweats. They have to “earn” the right to move from one practice station to the next. And they’ll have to “earn” the opportunity to play and to start during the fall the regular season. Remember when fans clamored for more accountability under London? Well, the accountability era has arrived at Virginia and the benefits could soon follow.
3) Virginia has a solid core of playmakers and leaders.
Despite the losing records fans saw under London, Virginia’s cupboard of talent isn’t bare. Quin Blanding, Smoke Mizzell, and Micah Kiser are national award candidates at their positions. Jackson Matteo and Eric Smith are clear cut starters on the offensive line. Donte Wilkins has embraced his new nose tackle role. Olamide Zacceheus gives the Virginia offense a second home run threat. New offensive coordinator Robert Anae will have some nice pieces to play with in his offense. So will Mendenhall, who will call the defense in addition to his duties as head coach.