University of Virginia in transition as 2020 football season nears

Sports

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Bronco Mendenhall is 4-for-4.

The Virginia head coach has increased his win total in every season he’s been at the helm of the Cavaliers.

Even before the pandemic, last season was going to be a tough act to follow.

UVA won the Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division, advancing to the conference championship game for the first time in program history, and earned a berth in the Orange Bowl.

It added up to a 9-5 season and a top 25 spot in the end-of-season coaches’ poll.

Mendenhall has had to change his normal preseason routine due to COVID-19.

“I’ve chosen not to add additional conditioning but I have chosen to do more, acclimation and situational work of actually just playing the game, probably more than we ever have,” Mendenhall said. “There’s risk in that, because rosters have a potential to be thin anyway, but I think the the best way to replicate what we’re going to be doing is to be doing it.”

Mendenhall will have to find a new quarterback after Bryce Perkins’ graduation.

Perkins led Virginia in rushing as well as passing last year and will hand the baton to redshirt sophomore Brennan Armstrong.

“It looks similar to last year,” Armstrong said of the offensive scheme. “I know I have different skill sets than Bryce and I think I just bring those to the table. There’s not much changing…new players, same offensive line, so we’ll see how those mesh.”

The Cavaliers return all five starters up front on offense as well as sure-handed wide receiver Terrell Jana.

One intriguing candidate in the backfield is Towson graduate transfer and former FCS All-American Shane Simpson.

“It’s been wild, to say the least, obviously me picking UVA and then obviously coming down here that Saturday,” Simpson said. “Since I got here, they’ve treated me like family and I can’t thank Coach Mendenhall and the staff and my new brothers enough for bringing me in.”

Virginia’s initial opener against VMI was canceled when the Keydets moved their season to the spring, meaning that the Commonwealth Clash at Virginia Tech on September 19 will kick off the season.

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