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Virginia football adds talent, fills in depth through transfers

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NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Stanford Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Virginia head football coach Bronco Mendenhall has never minced words about what the Hoos need for immediate improvement: depth.

From the very beginning of his time in Charlottesville, all the way through to his postseason press conferences, Mendenhall has stressed the need for more bodies. The offensive line has been particularly shallow in terms of pure numbers, but the “succession planning” at quarterback has caused the coaches to sprout a few new gray hairs as well.

To address those needs, the coaching staff scoured the transfer market in the offseason and landed several guys who should be able to help the Hoos, both in 2017 and in the years to come.

Commitments

John Montelus, OL (Notre Dame)

Montelus kicked things off back in December, becoming Virginia’s first transfer commit of the 2016-17 offseason. He arrived in Notre Dame with some pretty strong credentials—a four-star recruit and an Army All-American—but never got to the top of the Irish depth chart after injuries his freshman year. The coaches in South Bend moved Montelus to defensive line for bowl prep, but he should slot in on the offensive side in Charlottesville.

Here’s some film on big John, and what I saw in it:

The only good film on Montelus is from his senior season at Everett, so it has to be taken with a grain of salt. His technique is generally good, but he’s inconsistent: his hip bend disappears on some set-ups for pass protection, and he doesn’t always finish plays. He’s obviously very big and very strong, but sometimes relies too much on being just plain bigger than the guys across the ball.

Montelus will have one year of eligibility remaining.

Colin McGovern, OL (Notre Dame)

Montelus will be joined by one of the guys who was ahead of him at Notre Dame: Colin McGovern. McGovern committed to the Hoos just last week, and like Montelus, has one year of eligibility left.

While the two Notre Dame linemen were similarly heralded coming out of high school—in fact, perhaps Montelus even more so—McGovern had the more successful career in South Bend, starting eight games in 2016 before a nagging foot injury slowed him down toward the end of the year. He was part of a three-man rotation at right guard, and is the more likely of the two to make an immediate impact in Charlottesville.

Marvin Zanders, QB (Missouri)

The latest addition to the Virginia squad is dual-threat quarterback Marvin Zanders, who is transferring from Mizzou. Zanders will also be eligible to play immediately in 2017 as a graduate transfer, but will have two years of eligibility remaining.

Zanders adds an experienced running threat behind center that Virginia otherwise lacked, as neither Sonny Abramson nor Devante Cross has seen any game action. He played in eight games in 2016 and was 10-of-12 passing for 114 yards and a touchdown. As a runner, he carried the ball 35 times for 211 yards (5.7 ypc) and 2 scores.

He shows flashes of arm talent in the film above, though nowhere near what Benkert possesses. His true gifts are in his legs: he has long strides but quick feet, allowing him to change direction quickly and then cover a lot of ground at top speed. Zanders may not have the mass desired for a true “Thorterback” but he should be able to run the first true read-option offense that Charlottesville has seen.

Targets

Lorenzo Nunez, QB (South Carolina)

“Wait,” you’re saying. “We already GOT a transfer quarterback. You just said so.”

Yes, astute hypothetical reader. All correct. But Virginia’s QB depth is THAT bad. Mendenhall said he wanted to bring in at least one quarterback through transfers, and Nunez could be the second.

The Kennesaw, Georgia product arrived at South Carolina as a four-star quarterback and played there as a freshman, but was converted to a wide receiver. Sitting out the 2016 season on the WR depth chart apparently chafed at Nunez and he’s seeking opportunities to play quarterback again. Lorenzo, Bronco. Bronco, Lorenzo.

Nunez started 2 games as a freshman in Columbia, going 1-1 (beating UCF, losing to Mizzou). His rushing stats are almost identical to Zanders’—59 carries for 375 yards, at 6.7 yards per carry—with passing numbers roughly proportional to their playing time: 32 of 52 for 376 yards and 3 touchdowns.

If he stays in FBS, Nunez will have to sit out 2017. Time will tell whether the Zanders commitment will lead Nunez to look elsewhere, but he seems to have the talent and skill set to be an asset for the Hoos.

Brandon Pertile, OL (Oklahoma State)

This is likely the next shoe to drop on the transfer market. Pertile has made no secret of enjoying his time in Charlottesville.

Pertile would come to UVa off of a number of other stops in his college career. A 3-star tackle coming out of Clearwater, Florida, he committed to Georgia State and played the 2013 season there. In 2014, he transferred to Arizona’s Mesa Community College and played one season there. He was at Oklahoma State for the 2015 and 2016 seasons.

After that convoluted path, Pertile will have one year of eligibility remaining, which can start in 2017 as a graduate transfer. One wrinkle for Brandon: He wants to play football while going to law school, which would be tough anywhere but almost impossible at UVa Law.

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So that’s where things are with the transfers. Remember that all the ratings and rankings and breakdowns you see elsewhere tomorrow won’t factor these guys in. But we’ll be sure to let you know if they—or anyone else—announce they’re coming to Virginia as we also cover the fresh-out-of-high-school signees.