Mendenhall started with recruiting discussions, mentioning that it has been an extremely busy and challenging time as the program is dealing with recruiting, practice, and getting ready for the holidays. It isn’t lost on the head coach that having all these problems at once is actually a blessing. “That’s a great position to be in,” Mendenhall said, “..and something we worked really hard for.”
So far, Virginia has 11 players signed to the 2020 class. Mendenhall is excited about the class. “Wow, I really love these players,” he stated, continuing, “...the relationships we have with the 11 that are listed here, those relationships go really deep.” He also made a point to say that they only want players at Virginia that they truly like. “We spend way too much time to be enduring people rather than enjoying people,” said Mendenhall.
All of the committed players have values aligned with not only the Virginia football program, but the University as well. Mendenhall said that the success the Cavaliers have had this season on the field is paying dividends, and the legacy from his time at Brigham Young University is no longer projecting to potential future success at Virginia. Coach Mendenhall said they’re already seeing a bump through attention and interest in the 2021 class following the success the Hoos had on the field this past season.
Most of the pressing needs for the Cavaliers have been met, but not all. Coach Mendenhall also pointed out that wide receiver is still a position of need, but praised new commit Lavel Davis, saying, “He’s always wide open as soon as he lines up because he’s 6’6.” Mendenhall suggested that the coaching staff will look to bring in a graduate transfer quarterback, while cross-training R.J. Harvey at quarterback and welcoming dual-threat Ira Armstead as a mid-year enrollee.
Mendenhall said four-star offensive lineman Andrew Gentry is the most, “skilled, talented, and prepared” player that they’ve gotten at Virginia, and that the faith of the coaching staff was very important to Gentry. Mendenhall confirmed that Gentry plans to serve an LDS mission immediately following high school, which will keep him from joining the Cavaliers until 2022. Mendenhall said he’s seen players of Gentry’s size (6-foot-7, 300 pounds) return from missions “at 210 pounds, and some close to 400.” While Gentry will only be allotted approximately 30 minutes a day for physical exercise during his mission, the UVA staff will send him with a plan to keep him in as good shape as possible—though Mendenhall emphasized that they also want to let Gentry focus on the work of his mission.
Continuing to explain his experience with LDS missions from his time at BYU, Mendenhall said that once a player returns, it generally takes about a year to get back into the same physical condition as when they left. Mendenhall cited the maturity, independence, resilience, and fortitude that players develop during missions as major positives, but said players often have to work just as hard at getting back into mental shape to play a violent game like football.
Virginia’s Athletic Director Carla Williams provided more funding for recruiting, and Mendenhall was incredibly appreciative of that. “It has been essential, and it has made the most difference,” Mendenhall stated. While he credits performance on-field being a help in recruiting, Mendenhall said they couldn’t be where they are without the additional resources.
The press conference wrapped up with some discussion about the upcoming Orange Bowl, and how the tough matchup with Clemson helped prepare the Hoos.
You can see the full press conference here: