If you’d asked me last season which of the 3 new coaches in the Coastal division would be the most likely to fail, I would have told you Bronco Mendenhall. One season in, it looks like I may be right for once. Mendenhall came from a unique situation at BYU to the increasingly competitive ACC, and Mike London didn’t exactly leave him a great situation.
Coming off a 2-10 season, there isn’t anywhere to go but up, but how far up will Bronco’s team rise?
RB Taquan “Smoke” Mizzell
Mizell will prove to be the biggest loss for the Hoos, and it may not be close. Mizzell accounted for 1344 yards from scrimmage, more than double anyone else on the team. 5.6 yards per touch isn’t astounding, but given his sheer workload he was getting the job done. Mizzell’s departure is compounded by the departure of fellow RB Albert Reid, who contributed 528 scrimmage yards of his own. In fact....
When accounting for sack yardage, the UVA offense returns -2 rush yards from last year. NEGATIVE TWO
QB Matt Johns
Ah Matt Johns, the QB who didn’t start most of year, but did against Tech. Johns won the job after starter Kurt Benkert threw too many interceptions. Johns then proceeded to throw 3 interceptions. They won’t miss him.
QB Kurt Benkert
The starter for the majority of last season, Benkert was statistically better than Johns in pretty much every category, and should be an upgrade compared to what the Jackets saw last year. Considering UVA was 90th in offensive S&P+ last year, there is a lot of room for improvement.
DE Andrew Brown
To put it simply, Brown is a force, and menace, and everything an option offense should fear(or really any offense). Against Tech in 2016, Brown showed why he was a former 5-star by blowing plays up single-handedly. He was quick to get into the backfield, impossible to block, and too quick to option on midline plays. Brown was a major factor in making Tech’s offense inefficient by producing multiple negative plays on the day. He’s back, and he’ll have to be accounted for this year.
S Quin Blanding
The Hoos had not one, but two 5-star prospects on defense as part of the 2014 class. Considering the team was 77th in Defensive S&P+ last year, it’s a wonder they haven’t done more with what they have. While Blanding has been a good player his entire career in the ACC, my opinion of him as a player will forever be influenced by the image of Deandre Smelter firmly planting him on his backside in 2014. He was an effective defender against the Jackets in 2016, with 5 tackles and a Pass Defensed.
RB Lamont Atkins
Atkins is a 3-star prospect who enrolled early, which will give him a better shot at playing time this year as the team searches for rushing production this year. UVA likes to used multiple backs on offense every play, and also favors guys who can produce in both the run and pass games. Atkins seems like a good fit.
Against Georgia Tech
The UVA game last season was a perfect microcosm of all the reasons to be frustrated with Georgia Tech football in 2016. The offense couldn’t establish any sort of sustained success, but still scored points on explosive plays. Having Dedrick Mills out didn’t help, but it’s hard to complain about Marcus Marshall’s 127 yards at 7.9 ypc. The offense’s biggest challenge this year will be getting back to its normally efficient form. UVA’s disruptive athletes on defense will be a test.
Against the Flexbone, UVA uses a 3-4 alignement with a 0-Technique and 2 4i-Techniques. The OLBs line up outside the box on the heels of the DEs, while the ILBs are 4 yards deep. This formation tends to be susceptible to edge plays, as the second level can get caught up and blocked while flowing to the edge.
The defense.... oh the defense. UVA actually out-gained Tech in this one despite the score. A missed field goal and 3 turnovers change things quickly. The UVA offense utilizes 2 RBs and 3 WRs in base, and will occasionally swap a RB for a WR or split a back to the H-back position or out wide. They like to move players around to see how the defense responds, allowing them to play numbers and matchup games. Tech didn’t always respond well to these shifts, and got blocked up on the edge in the run game a couple times as a result. Sometimes simplicity helps. Sometimes it hurts.
Predicted 2017 Record: 4-8(2-6)