Brennan Armstrong will have to grow up fast, and on his own
The 6’2”, 220-pounder is set to take over as the new starting quarterback at Virginia, assuming the mantle from his record-setting predecessor, Bryce Perkins, who established a gold standard in his two years as the point man for Robert Anae’s offense.
Armstrong was Perkins’ understudy, and in brief bursts of action, he has shown his potential – completing 17 of his 25 pass attempts for 258 yards and two touchdowns, with two passes intercepted, in largely mop-up action.
The spring was going to be when Anae and head coach Bronco Mendenhall handed the keys to the car to Armstrong.
With spring practice scuttled due to the COVID-19 shutdown, at best Armstrong gets a fall camp to get acclimated to being the man.
“It, no question, prohibits and eliminates a growth opportunity that we won’t be able to recreate,” Mendenhall said.
There is the fallback in the fact that Armstrong got an extra couple of weeks of reps in December as Virginia prepped for the ACC Championship Game and then the Orange Bowl.
“Without those, it’s hard now, but I would have felt much different. We basically got a modified spring in that context, and Brennan got lots of work in, and plenty of repetition,” said Mendenhall, who nonetheless conceded that the spring was going to be important for Armstrong, and that his team now heads into the fall with “unknowns that we surely would like to have known before the season.”
“The volatility of the position we know is disproportionate to any other on the field,” Mendenhall said. “We probably will have to reconsider what fall camp might look like at that position specifically, knowing that there are limitations to what we can do between there and now compliance-wise.”
Which is to say, no, just because UVA is missing out on its spring, it’s not like Mendenhall, Anae and quarterbacks coach Jason Beck can get extra work in with Armstrong to guide him through the next few months.
Aside from keeping in contact with players regarding classes, nutrition, conditioning and the like, coaches aren’t able to engage in anything resembling coaching with players in dead periods in the off-season.
Meaning: it’s going to be all up to Armstrong to make up for his lost spring.
Mendenhall feels his guy will be up to the task.
“Brennan’s individual preparation, his individual commitment, his individual resiliency, as well as self-reliance and problem-solving, without that being at a really high level, it will be very challenging,” the coach said. “But those are the type of young people that I want on my team. Those are the type of kids that I want at UVA. That want challenges, that want to take on these kinds of unique challenges and hard things. And we’ll all be counting on Brennan to be doing that in a manner that exceeds that of what really any other quarterback in his position could do.”
Asked for his assessment on Armstrong’s development to this point in his college career, Mendenhall was glowing.
“I like his mindset. He’s a player that thinks he can make every play. Very confident, very, very competitive,” Mendenhall said. “He has high standards for himself, and is actually much better when he’s playing the game than he is in the film room or even in the locker room. He’s just one of those players who, under duress, seems to have the game slow down rather than speed up. If you have a choice, that’s where you’d like to have players excel.
“He’s elusive, but he’s not dynamic, in terms of a runner. He’s tough, he’s physical, and he falls forward and makes the chains move. He’s the type of player who seems to make the players around him better. There’s also an edge to his personality, where I think the team will take on a little more of a physical presence, maybe a combative presence, and maybe a little more edgier, as many teams do in relation to their quarterback.”
Story by Chris Graham