We’re still counting down the days until the Virginia Cavaliers’ home opener against Richmond, and in the meantime we’re breaking down the Cavaliers’ quarterback situation. Mendenhall’s first season with the team was a trial and error sort of era with Matt Johns and Kurt Benkert. Benkert ultimately won the starting slot and stayed there through the 2017 season. Mendenhall relied heavily on the transfer QB’s maturity and his ability to make passes, but as his tenure at Virginia continues, so does his ability to begin to build his own QB system similar to the one he developed at BYU.
This year we’ve got junior-college transfer Bryce Perkins from Arizona Western in one corner and sophomore quarterback Lindell Stone, who played briefly in one game as a freshman in 2017, and January enrollee Brennan Armstrong in the other.
Stone and Armstrong signal an intent to increase depth in the quarterback position moving forward. As Mendenhall focuses on recruiting quarterbacks that he can develop, he’s hoping to reduce Virginia’s reliance on transfers. Stone and Armstrong are both still quite young, so another year or two with a more experienced collegiate QB taking snaps isn’t necessarily a bad thing, if you ask me.
Let’s take a look at each, shall we?
Perkins is Mendenhall’s starter, as of spring and summer practices. This will be the second time in three years that Mendenhall has a transfer quarterback taking snaps with his first-team offense. The junior-college transfer from Arizona Western has been able to move the ball efficiently and develop the trust of both the players and coaches, and thus, he won the starting slot.
The 6-foot-three, 215 pound signal caller has two years of eligibility left after beginning his college career at Arizona State, where he was redshirted as a freshman in 2015. He was injured in the preseason in 2016 and transferred to Arizona Western, which reached the JUCO national championship game in 2017. Virginia is Perkins’s third college football program in four years, which gives him plenty of experience to pull from.
Perkins was in Charlottesville during winter workouts and spring practices, so he’s had an extra semester to get acclimated to the training, the team, and for Mendenhall’s offensive coordinator Robert Anae to build an offensive system that plays to Perkins strengths.
He also fits with the option-heavy attack that Anae and QB coach Jason Beck used to run at BYU (aka their bread and butter, huge bonus). An option offense is a more fluid system that adapts to defensive alignments as plays are being put into motion and relies more heavily on running plays than the Hoos have in the past. While Benkert was more of a pro-style pass-game kinda guy, Anae is better at crafting the run-game, and Perkins has plenty of experience there. Arizona Western, Perkin’s last school, was also a run-heavy system.
Perkins is a dual-threat with a decent arm to complement his legs, and, since an option-offense is not exclusively based on ground game, you should expect to see a little bit of everything offensively, at least in the beginning.
Stone is a 6-foot-flat, 200 pound sophomore from Dallas, TX., who was originally going to redshirt his freshman season — until that was blown against Boston College when he took the field for four sad snaps in place of starter Kurt Benkert. He’s more of a drop-back quarterback and is competing with Armstrong for the No. 2 spot. Stone is more similar to Benkert in the pass-happy, super-strong arm, drop-back-playmaker sense. With that in mind, QB coach Jason Beck still said that Stone was adjusting well to the new offensive changes, so don’t count him out just yet for the second string slot.
True freshman Brennan Armstrong is a three-star recruit out of Shelby, OH. The 6-foot-2, 210 pound early enrollee is another dual-threat quarterback for the Cavaliers with a strong run game and reliable arm if needed. He’s 247Sports’ 20th ranked dual-threat in his 2018 class and his recruitment aligns with Mendenhall’s goal of developing an offense around a QB who’s both an accomplished runner and passer.
TLDR (too long, didn’t read):
In Perkins and Armstrong, Virginia has two dual-threat quarterback options which is perfect for the option offense system that Mendenhall wants to establish at Virginia (we’ll get into that later this week).
Their recruitment is certainly a step in the right direction.
Late in their time at BYU, Beck and Anae were able to develop dual-threat QB Taysom Hill, now with the New Orleans Saints, and found success with the option offense — something they want to recreate with the Cavaliers. The option-heavy style of play is a threat to defenses everywhere, especially when you’ve got guys like Perkins and Armstrong on deck who are adept in the run game but who are also quick with a pass or in a scramble.
Both were January enrollees and have had plenty of time to train with the team, but Perkins prior experience has given him a clear advantage. Where exactly Stone fits into this system is yet to be seen.