The Virginia Cavaliers opened their 2017 fall football camp on Friday morning in Charlottesville, a week earlier than in years past, now that the NCAA has eliminated two-a-day practices. There are limitations as to what teams can and can’t do during this bonus week -- limited tackling/contact, etc. — but it gave Bronco Mendenhall a chance to talk with the media and show off what the team is working with for the upcoming season.
Below is the VirginiaSportsTV video with highlights of the first practice, which Mendenhall called an integrated practice model that they’ll continue to refine in the coming days and weeks. Saturday, the team will get to play some actual football during practice, something Mendenhall says is particularly necessary for this team given where they are.
In the video, Mendenhall touts the new Class of 2017 who, he says jokingly, he didn’t “forget about” per se, but rather, his focus was elsewhere after they were signed. But now that they’re in Charlottesville, and now that the coaching staff have had the opportunity to see them move on the field, they “like who they are and how they play.”
"That is our foundational class. It's the first class we've chosen,” Mendenhall said, almost as if he’s offering an excuse for last year’s personnel. “I think we were right on with, number one, who they are but also what kind of players they are, so I really like the class."
“Roster management happens when you add the right players to the right positions at the right time,” Mendenhall said.
“We’re building a roster here.”
Something else to keep an eye on this year is an improved defense. Specifically, Mendenhall pointed out that he’s expecting more consistency this year, “play in and play out, game in and game out,” as last year there were eight first-time starters who are now a year older.
Virginia will have four more practices before the team wears pads for the first time next Thursday.
“It’s underwear Olympics right now,” said offensive line coach Garrett Tujague. “We’ve got no pads on. We’ve just got helmets. And so everything’s trending in the right direction. They’ve done an amazing job with our football performance staff in preparing themselves and getting ready.”