Speaking to the press at ACC media days in Charlotte, Virginia Cavaliers head football coach Bronco Mendenhall revealed that freshman quarterback Lindell Stone will be the likely backup to incumbent starter Kurt Benkert.
Stone was a highly regarded prospect out of Woodberry Forest, and one of the earliest members of the 2017 recruiting class. While the hope had been that he could redshirt in 2017, the Hoos’ QB depth has taken several hits recently: sophomore Sonny Abramson left the program, and transfer Marvin Zanders never made it to Grounds. Presumably, Devante Cross will be the third-string/emergency quarterback behind Stone. Recent addition Matthew Merrick will have to sit out the 2017 season.
If—heaven profane—Benkert and Stone both go down, fans will see just about every iteration of the Anae offense. Under Benkert, expect more of the Air Raid aspects displayed last year. Stone should need more of a West Coast style, since he doesn't have the same live arm as Benkert. And if Cross is the one taking snaps, look to see spread-to-run concepts that Anae developed with Rich Rodriguez and leaned on with Taysom Hill at BYU.
Playing Stone as a true freshman does set things up well for quarterback consistency down the road. Three-star Wyatt Rector should arrive in Charlottesville for the 2018 season, which would make the next few years look something like this:
QB1: Stone (final season, and we’ll just go ahead and pencil him in for the Heisman)
QB1: Rector (third year in program, two seasons eligibility remaining)
QB2: Merrick (final year in program)/recruit/transfer
That looks more like responsible continuity planning at the game’s most important position than anything Virginia has seen in decades.