ACC Football Teleconference: UVA coach Bronco Mendenhall

uva acc kickoff bronco mendenhallBRONCO MENDENHALL: After a very unique and challenging week a week ago, we’re anxious to play at home at a normal time at the normal venue against an ACC team, which adds a sense of normalcy and a great opportunity for us to kind of move onto the next phase of our season. We’re anxious to play, looking forward to the challenge.

With that statement, I’ll take questions.

Q. With (indiscernible) being so successful early on this season, other defenses are probably playing more attention to him. How creative are you and Robert having to be to try to find ways to get him the ball?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: It’s just the beginning. We are more effective and have been more effective even than a year ago in ways that he’s getting the ball. But the task that I’ve given Robert, he’s passed onto his coach, we have a clear idea of how many touches and how much production we need from him, knowing that each game is a game that’s recorded, that’s on tape, now is used as the database of tendencies.

We know based on the Indiana game versus the other two that we won’t be as successful, he won’t score as many points, nor will our team have a chance to win unless he has a significant role.

It’s going to be a challenge every game from here on out to find new, better ways in addition to the ones we’re already having for him, because we think he’s essential to our success.

Q. At this point, are there things that you’re hoping to see through three non-conference games before you launch into ACC play, like benchmarks you’re trying to hit? Do you feel like your guys hit them?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: Man, I would love to say that there were clear and specific benchmarks that are different in pre-season versus regular season. But we have pillars of our program which are key metrics we try to hit no matter what time of the year. We know the more frequently we hit them, the more consistently we hit them, the better chance to have success.

Really what the pre-season, if that’s the right word, early season games tell us, measured against our pillars, is how close are we, how consistent are we, and then hopefully that allows us to draw the right conclusions as to what to do about it if we’re not hitting them.

I’d say the biggest difference is maybe the uncertainty, not urgency, of what it might look like from game to game early on. Three games is just about enough to start giving you a decent idea as to where strengths might be, where deficits might be.

We just happen to have a clear framework and structure of what we need, what will be successful, regardless of what team we have per year in the nature of our pillars. We measure things against those.

Q. We’ve asked you specifically about Bryce. Has there been one or two things for the rest of the team that has surprised you, you said that’s going to work better than I thought, that’s not going to work as well as I thought?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: The first part, what’s worked better, is focus and development, all the work that he’s put on in the past game, us being able to throw and catch the ball at a higher level than any of us thought we would be this early on. What we already knew that’s been the same, not a disappointment, is his ability to extend plays and to run.

Q. There was hardly anybody in the stands when the game started the other day, but by the end there were a lot more Virginia fans than Ohio fans. Did you notice that?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: You know, I did actually. I rarely do. But I started noticing the announcer saying it’s another Virginia, I actually heard people say first down, at the beginning. There was nothing that was happening.

To be honest, it didn’t feel different as the game went on as being so quiet. It was noticeable at the beginning of the game. It was certainly noticeable in pregame. It was noticeable for I would say maybe through about the first two and a half quarters. At the end it started to feel like there was momentum and support and some enthusiasm from the Virginia fans that were there, which I really appreciated. It was noticeable, those that were there, the noise they were making. My team noticed.

Q. With Jordan’s big run on Saturday, obviously he gets credit and the offensive line, but was any of that the Bryce Perkins threat of running, the defense just having to be accountable with him, helping to open that up?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: Yeah, that’s the exact point, is with Bryce, and I guess what college football collectively calls zone read, but if Bryce pulls the ball, attacks the alley or the edge, there has to be width. The more the defenses collapse and squeeze down for Jordan, the more susceptible and vulnerable they become to the perimeter.

The play hit so fast, was targeted correctly, but the entire field side of their defense was hesitant to collapse because of Bryce. That was just enough for Jordan to get past everyone and be gone before they could react to it. I think it’s the exact reason they didn’t collapse more effectively.

Q. On the Louisville side, Cunningham, we know that he’s the starting quarterback, what are the traits that he brings to the position that you have to account for defensively?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: Well, what I’ve talked about a little bit earlier today, when I think Louisville, I think Lamar Jackson. That is their brand. That is who they want at that position. It’s how they want to run their system. So they’ve just chosen, in my opinion, the player of the two that closest resembles what his skill set was, which is just the electric type of athlete that can take the ball the distance on any play.

I think they saw enough of that in some of their struggles, come-from-behind wins or point production over the past couple games, even though he’s youthful to say this is the future, even though he doesn’t have experience, because he’s more like Lamar in their opinion than what his competitor was and is.

Q. This week the ACC and CFP are celebrating Extra Yard for Teachers. Can you give us an idea what role teachers played in your life, how they’ve impacted your life.
BRONCO MENDENHALL: My teachers influenced me basically in helping me choose my profession. I think coaches are teachers, at least that’s the way I approach it. I think I’m an educator. I think the best educators truly care about who they are teaching, call them by name, really care about them as people.

To me, these two professions, if there are two separate professions, blend really, really neatly and nicely, have a lot to do with me choosing to be a coach, because of the teachers I had growing up.

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