Coming into the fourth quarter and the Virginia football team is down 30-7 against FCS foe, the Richmond Spiders. This unacceptable and embarrassing defeat set the tone for a team that would struggle to create an identity and winning culture. Players would not hold themselves accountable for whenever they made mistakes and always found a way to make excuses. This football team can only move forward after an atrocious 2-10 season under first-year head coach Bronco Mendenhall. He seeks not only to establish a winning culture, but also transform his players into men that can make an impact outside of football. It is about becoming a well-rounded individual that is willing to put your teammates before yourself on the field and pick each other up through trials and tribulations. With this upcoming season, he will continue his tradition of making players earn their jerseys numbers. In spring practice there are no numbers on the jerseys, nothing on the helmets, other than their names on the front. It doesn’t matter if a player has been a part of the program for the last three years, everything has to be “earned not given”. Mendenhall believes that to play for his program, the players must cherish it and not brush over the foundational elements that allow for the growth of a team. With Mendenhall ingraining values and disciplines into his program, he hopes to observe a complete maturation make-over with the team. But how much better will this football team be coming into the 2017-2018 season? Will they be able to make a bowl game?
Recruiting For The 2017-2018 Season
Mendenhall has been known for his ability to foster relationships and really learn about the prospective players that may enter his program. Speculators are doubting the quality of recruits Mendenhall is going after as there is not a player rated higher than three stars by the major recruiting sites in the 2017 or 2018 classes. There are even a few that are not even ranked but received scholarships. However, for a coach that has had winning seasons throughout his entire coaching tenure, we cannot doubt the value that he has added to players. For example, one current NFL star that didn’t even merit a star coming out of high school was Baltimore Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta. At BYU, he was a walk on and would later earn All-American honors. Another monster that had a similar story is Ezekial Ansah, who was a first-round pick for the Detroit Lions and one of BYU’s all-time greats. He was originally an unranked football recruit and was recognized more for his talents in track and field.
For the 2017 recruiting class, Mendenhall has garnered 25 commits, with four of them already enrolled in the University. One of the issues with the team the past few years has been the depth at various positions. Mendenhall has prioritized finding the type of talent that can help transform the program as they develop through their college careers. He first focused entirely on filling out an offensive line that had very little game experience and veteran presence. The inexperience led to a lot of QB pressures and sacks to graduate quarterback Kurt Benkert, who showed flashes of excellence when receiving protection from the line. The notable recruits that he found were 6-foot-6, 254 pound Ryan Nelson from Buena Park, California, and 6-foot-4, 255 pound Chris Glaser from Solon, Ohio. These players alongside some incoming graduate transfer lineman will provide the necessary balance that Virginia seeks to compete in a star-filled ACC conference. They will enhance their skill sets with consistent offensive line coaching provided by coach Garett Tujague
After a horrendous 2-10 season, the Virginia football team has plenty of room to make improvements on both sides of the ball. With team accountability and players instilling hard work ethics into their daily practices, this team can have a significantly brighter future. With its first three games against teams that were not above .500 and at home, Virginia can compete. Virginia has a great chance of picking up two of these home wins, which leaves them to make their mark in the ACC. If they can pick up three ACC wins, one against Duke, Boston College, and Georgia Tech, they will finish at 5-7. This is a substantial improvement from last year.