It’s amazing what a quarterback succession plan does to a team. From 2008 until 2017, the Virginia Cavaliers did not have a returning starting quarterback. (Mike Rocco was sort of a returning QB in 2012, but he split time with Phillip Sims in a failed experiment.) For basically a decade, Virginia football had no plan at QB. It is not coincidence that the team was 37-72 over that time period.
In 2017, Kurt Benkert returned and started every game. Again, not a coincidence that Virginia won six games and went to a bowl game. After Benkert graduated, there wasn’t anybody on the roster that Jason Beck and Robert Anae (QB coach and Offensive Coordinator) was comfortable starting. But they had a plan. They had a type and they were always looking at the transfer market. We may never know, but it’s likely that they had their eye on now-senior quarterback Bryce Perkins for a while.
Perkins could not have met the challenge any more. All he did was have one of the best seasons ever for a Virginia quarterback, finishing sixth all-time in passing yards in a season and first in total offense. He completed 64.5% of his passes, third best all-time for Virginia. His 25 TD passes are tied for second best. He is the first Virginia QB with multiple 100 yard rushing games in a season since Bill Dudley in 1941. He also did this:
Twice in one game. I challenge anyone to find a highlight to match that from any player in college football last year.
Don’t think that Perkins is just a runner either. He can throw the rock as well, with over 2600 yards passing last year. He’s got a strong arm, and excels on slants and posts. Those routes are his strength.
Like a lot of guys with big arms, Perkins doesn’t always show the greatest touch on softer throws. Here’s one example of a touch throw he made look easy.
Virginia is set at QB this year, as long as Perkins stays healthy. But, Perkins has a history of injury. He played through some injuries last year, including a broken finger. Previously, he had a broken neck, which put his entire football future into question. Both Perkins and Coach Mendenhall must have that in the back of their minds.
Perkins’s backups have not been tested very much. That said, redshirt freshman Brennan Armstrong saw limited action last year and looked solid. Armstrong is UVA’s first big beneficiary of the new redshirt rule. Armstrong saw action in four games as a true freshman, meaning he retains his year of eligibility while also getting experience on the field.
Armstrong completed just two of five passes, but one of those was a 56 yard TD to Joe Reed (though to be fair, that play was mostly Reed). And he rushed nine times for 74 yards including a 34 yard scamper. He definitely looks the part of a Bronco Mendenhall QB. Here’s the two highlights.
Armstrong’s game is very similar to Perkins’s, which means the game plan would not have to change much should Armstrong be thrust into action. Armstrong is lefty, which would likely change some protection schemes, but otherwise playcalling could remain the same. Armstrong has put on 10 pounds since last year.
The other QB on the roster with playing experience is sophomore Lindell Stone. Stone played in one game as a freshman in 2017 and completed 2-of-9 for 26 yards. Unlike Armstrong and Perkins, Stone is a drop-back passer. So the game plan would have to change dramatically for him. There is little chance that Stone sees the field this year.
Armstrong is the future QB for the Hoos. It’ll be pretty surprising if he isn’t starting in 2020. But there are two true freshman QBs, R.J. Harvey and Luke Wentz who will be fighting for that spot. Both are dual-threat QBs, but they are vastly different players.
Harvey is a small (5’10” 182), running QB from Florida. As a senior, he had 1800 yards passing and 1400 rushing. Those numbers make you think he’s more of a runner than a passer. But he can definitely throw the ball. The first throw we see in this highlight video is a bit of an underthrow. But he makes the back-shoulder throw into the endzone twice, and that isn’t an easy throw. He can sling it.
He really needs to bulk up before he’s ready to see the field. Though he runs through a few tackles in this video, he simply isn’t big enough to be a running QB at this level. Harvey could also end up at H-back or WR as well. His ability with the ball in his hands is undeniable, but he may just be too small to play QB in college.
At 6’3” 205, Wentz has more of a QB body. Wentz is German, but grew up playing American football. The level of competition in Germany is unknown (but probably not very good). We also don’t really have statistics for his high school games. If you watch his tape below, his arm strength and his athleticism both jump out. He seems bit like former BYU QB Taysom Hill. He can make all of the throws and he has the size and athleticism to run by, around and through defenders. Wentz is very raw, as you’d expect from a guy growing up in Europe. But if Beck and Anae can mold him, he could be great.
Virginia also has a commitment from Ira Armstead, a 3-star QB out of South Bend, Indiana. Armstead is listed at 6’3” 195 and is listed on Hudl with a 4.47 time in the 40. That’s impressive for a high school junior. His highlight reel is below. He shows off a very strong arm, throwing deep outs, and hitting some tight windows on slants and crossing routes. And, of course, he shows off speed and agility running with the football. With a lot of talent ahead of him, Armstead is almost certain to redshirt as a freshman, but his potential may be higher than any of the guys ahead of him.