Brennan Armstrong on the UVA offense: ‘We honestly could be at the very top’
If it feels like Virginia quarterback Brennan Armstrong has been around forever, it’s only because he has been.
OK, technically, Armstrong, a rising redshirt junior, has only been on Grounds since January 2018, but what that means is, almost four entire years.
The lefthander from Shelby, Ohio, apprenticed under Bryce Perkins for two years, before taking the reins as QB1 in 2020.
Perkins was a two-year starter at QB, and his predecessor, Kurt Benkert, was also a two-year guy, but both came in as transfers, meaning they had to come in, get a crash course in Robert Anae’s offense, start, and once they knew what they were doing, their time was up.
Armstrong has that two-year apprenticeship, a season as a starter to learn more of what’s expected, and now this year, next year and maybe a COVID redshirt year after to continue to grow and build his base of knowledge.
“What it’s enabled me to do is just not worry about anything on the offensive side, and completely turn my focus to what’s going on with the defense,” Armstrong told me this week at the ACC Football Kickoff in Charlotte.
“That’s what it’s all about. You get to this level, you’ve got no worries about what’s going on with the offense, it’s just habits, this happens, and then we just focus on what’s going on with the defense. That will help me play faster, will just result in better things,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong, in his first year as the starter, availed himself well, throwing for 2,111 yards and 18 touchdowns, with 11 INTs, a 58.6 percent completion rate, and a team-leading 552 yards on the ground.
For those who wondered how he would compare to Perkins, the answer was: quite well.
His pass efficiency rating, 138.9, was actually a tick better than Perkins in 2019 (134.2), and he averaged more TDs per game (2.56 to 2.36) and was close in total offense (Perkins averaged 307.6 yards per game in 2019, to the 296.6 that Armstrong put up in 2020).
And keep in mind, that’s comparing Year 1 for Armstrong to Perkins’ Year 2.
What can we expect from Armstrong in his Year 2?
“I would say, I’m just a lot more comfortable,” Armstrong said. “We’ve got our five O-line returners. A lot of chemistry being built in the spring ballgame, spring practices. Yeah, just games under my belt. I think games under my belt helps a lot.
“Just a huge jump from first to second year already, just through spring ball, having that time with the receivers, just the guys. Yeah, just a lot, lot more comfortable,” Armstrong said.
Head coach Bronco Mendenhall has been saying since the spring that he thinks the run game should be the strongest that it’s been since he arrived on Grounds in 2015, so, there’s that.
“That opens up the offense a lot,” Armstrong said. “It keeps everything 50/50. If we can go 50/50, that’s huge. If we need to go 60/40, that’s big. If we can continue to run the ball on a high level, play-action passes, deep balls, it helps us so much.
“Being successful at the run, they have to stop that, and then I’ll pull one and probably pull it for, like, 40, because at that point, they’re not really expecting it, so the big yards can come quick, just because they’re trying to protect something else. So yeah, it’s gonna be huge for us,” Armstrong said.
There’s a lot coming back from the 2020 UVA offense that ranked in the top half of the ACC in scoring (30.7 points per game), total offense (423.3 yards per game) and passing offense (260.6 yards per game).
The sky’s the limit?
“If we can get everything rolling, with our receiver corps, with our tight ends, our running backs, our offensive line, we honestly could be at the very top,” Armstrong said.
Story by Chris Graham