For a team that went 2-10 in the 2016 season, the Virginia football team is looking to mightily improve their record this year under second-year coach Bronco Mendenhall. The main focus for this year’s recruiting season is to address the dire need at the offensive line position, which was extremely problematic for Virginia throughout last season and limited the success of quarterback Kurt Benkert. In their first two games, Benkert was sacked nine times, including six times against the Oregon Ducks. This was the most sacks allowed in a game since giving up six to FSU in 2010. Despite being tied with Matt Schaub for the quickest quarterback to reach 2,000 passing yards in a season, Benkert’s reads and decision-making were hindered by the constant pressure created by the offensive line. In the 11 games he started, he threw for over 2,500 yards but his touchdown to interception ratio was below average, as it sat slightly behind two to one. In his tenure at Virginia, Mendenhall has already made significant strides on the recruiting trail, signing five offensive linemen in the 2017 class. Of these five, Mendenhall has landed three graduate transfer linemen that bring in experience and versatility to the position that was not seen in last year’s starters.
Two of these graduate transfers come from Notre Dame, both Colin McGovern and John Montelus. McGovern is the more likely of the two to make an impact in Charlottesville as he had a successful career playing guard at Notre Dame, starting eight games in 2016 before an injury took him out for the rest of the season. His versatility and experience will hopefully pay dividends on the field for Virginia team that had a depleted and young offensive line in 2016. Montelus can also play a key role to the team by providing depth and athleticism to the position, which he has not been able to due to injuries in his freshman year at Notre Dame. Coming out of high school as a four-star recruit and an Army All-American, Montelus presents a high-upside for Virginia as he has shown the potential to perform at an elite level.
The last graduate transfer lineman is three-star tackle Brandon Pertile that has had stints at various colleges including Georgia State, Arizona’s Community College and Oklahoma State for the 2015 and 2016 seasons. The 6-foot-4, 315-pound lineman never started at Oklahoma State but did appear in three games over the two-year span. Mendenhall believes that Pertile can add depth and maturity to the position.