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Bronco Mendenhall on Virginia’s practices leading up to Miami

Coming off two losses, here’s how Mendenhall focused his team’s efforts this week.

Virginia v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Virginia Cavaliers head coach Bronco Mendenhall shared a few words with the media earlier this week following Tuesday’s team practice on what the team and coaches are focusing on for Miami.

“It’s a lot of the same descriptors each time we play Miami,” Mendenhall said. “We always see speed and athleticism.”

While the defensive identity has “shifted slightly” now that Miami head coach Manny Diaz has returned to coordinating, Mendenhall notes that this profile has mirrored what his teams have looked like in the past with him as coordinator.

Offensively, as fast as Wake Forest was at getting on the ball, Mendenhall is preparing for an even quicker tempo from Miami.

There has also been a “real focus on quarterback play” at Miami, “not only throwing the ball but also scrambling, and then getting the ball in space to really good players.”

Miami’s D’Eriq King, who started all 11 games last season and the first three this season for Miami, may still be out tonight.

But backup quarterbacks Tyler Van Dyke and Jake Garcia put up a fantastic performance last week against Central Connecticut State — yes, Central Connecticut State, but the Hurricanes won in convincing fashion, 69-0.

On whether the team is prepared for King, Van Dyke, or Garcia, Mendenhall said, “You always have to acknowledge all that. It’s always best to prepare for the starter and then you adjust after that.”

Miami’s offense without King certainly looks different, Mendenhall acknowledged, but that doesn’t mean they’ve revamped their entire preparation.

“Like any coordinator, the more you have to change in reduced time, the harder it is to be effective. So really you try to change as little as possible, unless you just have to because their styles are so different. So [in preparing for Miami] some, but not drastic.”

As part of the team’s preparation, Mendenhall is trying to create more pressure to try to minimize the number of costly penalties the team is incurring each game.

As the pressure builds in practice or game situations, “that’s when new behaviors start,” Mendenhall said. “Because of playing from behind or trying to force our way back into a game, that has a lot to do with what I’m seeing when they’re coming up. I’ve got to do a better job creating more pressure to expose that.”

“This team is gaining urgency identity and clarity with each week, whether it’s win or loss.”

Mendenhall also knows that the defense needs to execute better at critical moments, specifically on keeping on their assignments and getting great productions on third and fourth downs, opportunities for the defense to get off the field.

Kickoff is tonight at 7:30 p.m. and we’ll have our BIG PREVIEW up shortly.