Tomorrow marks the beginning of the Bronco Mendenhall era at the University of Virginia as the Wahoos take the field against FCS challenger Richmond. The in-Commonwealth competitor should not be taken lightly (I saw you, Appalachian State) as they had an incredible season in 2015 and will be looking to spoil Bronco’s coming out party.
To get a little more information on our eight-legged foe down I-64, we spoke with John O’Connor at the Richmond Times Dispatch.
STL: Richmond is No.4 in the FCS this season, coming off of a 10-4 season in which they made an appearance in the FCS semifinals. So I guess the question is: how good is this year's team? Do you think they will match that performance or exceed it this season?
JOC: Expectations at Richmond are the highest since 2009, the year after the Spiders won the FCS championship. Richmond has 15 starters back from a team that really improved as 2015 progressed. Without injury issues, the Spiders should again be in the conversation for a CAA and NCAA championship.
STL: The Spiders return 16 of 22 starters. How will this experience help them in this early matchup?
JOC: Richmond has no idea what is coming with a new U.Va. staff. It will be fast on offense. That's about all the Spiders know. So, an older team should be able to make the in-game adjustments that will surely be required.
STL: Who are some players Virginia fans should know about?
JOC: Safety David Jones, a senior in his second year as a starter, may be an NFL player. He's 6-3 and 210 pounds after arriving at Richmond from St. Petersburg, Fla., as a 165-pounder who played quarterback. Senior receiver Brian Brown gets open and makes catches despite not having standout size (6-2, 205) or speed. He has more than 1,000 receiving yards in each of the last two seasons.
STL: This will be everyone's first look at Bronco Mendenhall at the Virginia helm, running an air raid offense and a base 3-4 defense. How is Richmond equipped to handle this new UVA look?
JOC: According to Richmond coach Danny Rocco, the Spiders are studying BYU video and U.Va. personnel, trying to get a feel for the blend Bronco may be brewing.