As the Virginia Cavaliers prepare to kickoff against the #10 Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Saturday, quarterback Brennan Armstrong’s status is still unknown. In his Monday presser, Bronco Mendenhall addressed Armstrong’s injury and the team’s plan heading into Saturday.
To open, Mendenhall emphasized that “I don’t have an update on Brennan,” and noted that “I probably won’t have an update until the ball is wicked off and we all look out there and see who our quarterback is,” but that, “I’m planning on him being our quarterback.”
When asked what he meant when saying he doesn’t have an update, Mendenhall said that “it means just collectively where I don’t really plan to address it because I don’t think it’ll help you, me, or anyone else in terms of preparation,” as he added that “it helps our football team best to let Brennan heal, recover, and our team get ready to play.”
As far as whether or not Armstrong would have to practice this week in order to play on Saturday, Mendenhall was clear, saying that “Brennan has earned every opportunity to play, even if he just looks out over the [practice] field from the balcony,” as he noted how Armstrong “trains so hard in mental reps, et cetera, so it literally is day-to-day and we’re going to give every minute right until the ball is kicked off to be our quarterback. The team knows that. I know that. He knows that. He’s earned that chance.”
In terms of what the plan is if Armstrong is unable to go against the Irish, Mendenhall pointed out how preparing for either situation is “really tricky,” and that “you try not to prepare multiple options. You try to find everything that’s similar and use all of that. Then if there happens to be a change, you’re ready either way.”
With Jay Woolfolk having replaced Armstrong against BYU and set to start in his place if need be on Saturday, Mendenhall stressed how his “similarity to Brennan,” and the fact there’s “less change needed for the offense for Brennan than [if Ira Armstead was the backup],” allows the team “to train consistently and more consistently.”
He was quick to say that “that doesn’t mean we don’t like Ira because I really do.” It’s just that there are “less alterations for Jay… so that really was one of the main determinants [in deciding who the backup is.]”
Mendenhall is, in fact, excited about the opportunity the team has this week to work with the various quarterbacks on this roster. He noted that while Armstrong is recovering, “it gives us a chance to play and train other quarterbacks that we really like.” Of course, he acknowledged that, unlike last season, their quarterback plan “is much more intentional, and I think our succession plan [is clearer]. So I feel much better about that.”
When speaking on Woolfolk’s performance against BYU, Mendenhall called back to when Brennan Armstrong had to play a series in Bryce Perkins’ absence a few years ago and drove the team down the field and scored a touchdown. Mendenhall admired how Armstrong “acted like he had just gone to Baskin & Robbins and got a milkshake and then came back to the game. It was just totally fun to him.”
Mendenhall went on to relate Woolfolk to Armstrong as he mentioned how “Jay, in a good way, is wired similarly, where you almost want to say, ‘You know this is, right? This is college football. This is a big deal,’” but that Woolfolk “is like ‘yeah, that would be a mistake.’ He’s just going to go out there to play. That endears him to me as a young person, but, man, he’s really capable. Bright, bright future ahead for him”
Of course, no matter who is playing quarterback against Notre Dame, Mendenhall and the coaching staff can take solace in the plethora of offensive weapons the team has at its disposal.
“If you’re Brennan you’re smiling every play and every day of practice because of the number of passes you have,” Mendenhall said. “If you happen to be a younger quarterback coming in you’re still smiling because there are so many other options and you’re not carrying the weight of the entire program. You’re just doing your job; others are doing theirs.”
So, while Armstrong’s status for Saturday still appears to be up in the air, there’s at least optimism within the program that there’s a chance he plays. And, even if he doesn’t, the ‘Hoos have a competent backup plan. Notre Dame is Notre Dame, so it’d be unfair to expect Jay Woolfolk to upset the #10 team in the country in his first start. But, at least according to Mendenhall, the offense shouldn’t fall apart if Woolfolk has to take the reins.