After an early signing period that saw the Virginia Cavaliers land 18 commitments, head coach Bronco Mendenhall took several occasions to highlight two in particular: Brennan Armstrong and Bryce Perkins.
While Virginia considered bringing in a graduate transfer at the position, Mendenhall said, “it ultimately didn’t make sense because of the talent we were getting in [Perkins and Armstrong], and especially at mid-year. With one being a true freshman and Perkins being a juco transfer, the talent there is really starting to stack the way we want.”
Mendenhall also said that UVA has “found a good third option” in rising sophomore Devante Cross, who split time between cornerback and wide receiver this season. “He’ll move to the offensive side [in 2018], but his primary meeting room won’t be quarterback. He’ll be a wide receiver first but cross-trained at quarterback as well.”
What does that mean for true freshman Lindell Stone, the only scholarship quarterback that will return from 2017? He and and Cross are, according to Mendenhall, the “slash” third option—as in Cross and/or Stone.
Speaking about the class more broadly, Mendenhall said the coaches’ focus was a philosophy of “Better than, not equal to:” bringing in first-year players each year who are better than the year before. That rising talent level puts the onus on older players to use the development program to stay ahead of the talent behind them.
“My job,” said Mendenhall, “is to create leverage where I can to lift the program as a whole.”
Aside from quarterback, Mendenhall said he feels most confident in the linebackers and the wide receivers that are part of the 2018 class. Of the top five signees in the class (according to the 247 Composite ratings), two are linebackers: Javar Garrett from Highstown, New Jersey; and Noah Taylor from Bethesda, Maryland. Linebacker Grant Misch, out of Potomac Falls in Sterling, Virginia, is 10th in the class.
Mendenhall said that linebacker and defensive back are the two positions that are “most accessible” for Virginia in its current recruiting footprint.
“Ideally, we would have about one-third of each class coming from the state of Virginia,” said Mendenhall. “That will come as we win more. Time plus consistency builds trust, and that’s what we’re working toward.”
As for the players who have publicly committed to the Cavaliers but did not sign with UVA? In Mendenhall’s mind, “they’re not committed.”
“I don’t understand why someone who is committed would not take the chance to make it official. We have heard from some coaches who only want to do one signing day ceremony instead of two, but if a coach is working as an antagonist like that, then I have to treat the player as though he’s not committed and we have to prepare for them not to sign in February either.”
Defensive tackle Samson Reed, offensive linemen Will Lawrence and Micah Miteragi, and defensive back D.J. Brown have all announced commitments but did not submit letters of intent on Wednesday. The signing period is open through Friday.
Mendenhall identified the remaining needs as wide receiver, defensive back, defensive line, offensive line, and then two or three “best available” players. Speaking specifically about the wide receiver position, Mendenhall hinted at Virginia pursuing graduate transfer players. “We have lots of young talent, but with Andre [Levrone] and Doni [Dowling] leaving there’s a gap between our young talent and the level of experience we would prefer,” explained Mendenhall. “If we can bring in someone to raise that level of experience, we will.”