It’s time for Bronco to move on from Robert Anae

uva footballI’m trying not to be hot taeky in my old age, so I’m coming around to this later than a lot of you are: that Bronco Mendenhall needs to do something about Robert Anae.

Now, I’m not going to launch or anything like that. Mendenhall isn’t likely to fire Anae, though the two did spend some time apart, when Anae resigned his OC job at BYU after a tumultuous 2010 season that also saw Mendenhall fire his defensive coordinator mid-season.

Anae returned in 2013, then followed Mendenhall to UVA in 2015.

So, they’ve known each other a long time.

Mendenhall does leave the impression that he’s a numbers-oriented guy, though, and the numbers don’t look good with respect to Anae.

Virginia is 13th in the ACC in total offense, only better than Georgia Tech, which is at the beginning of a schematic switch from triple-option to spread.

The ‘Hoos are 14th in rushing, and it’s not really close, at just over 100 yards on the ground per game.

Offensive production, lack thereof, is the reason for the two losses, at Notre Dame and at Miami.

At Notre Dame, it was five turnovers, largely the result of eight sacks, two of them strip-sacks, one of which led directly to a score, the other returned inside the 10 that led to a second TD.

At Miami, it was six trips inside the ‘Canes 30 that resulted in three field goals.

We keep hearing – hell, I keep writing – that the issue is the offensive line.

Here’s the hard part to accepting that as the pat answer: Anae’s background is as an O-line coach, over 14 years at six different stops.

If the issue is the O-line, and it is, it so obviously is, why isn’t the OC with 14 years as an O-line coach doing something to correct for it?

Virginia has weapons – Bryce Perkins at QB, Joe Reed, Hasise Dubois and Tavares Kelly at wideout, a backfield stacked with speed and size, though limited a bit by youth and inexperience.

There’s no good reason that Perkins has seen his rushing per game drop from 71.0 in 2018 to 31.8 in 2019, for the run game to be 71.5 yards per game off what it was able to generate in 2018 overall.

What you’re seeing, the run game is less productive, and it’s putting pressure on the passing game to produce, and the hits are adding up on Perkins, who has thrown six INTs in six games, after throwing eight in 13 games in 2018.

You’re also seeing the red-zone offense continue to struggle to be productive: scoring 15 TDs and eight field goals on 27 trips through six games in 2019, actually a touch better than the 28 TDs and 12 field goals on 54 trips in 2018.

Still, Virginia ranks 55th nationally in red-zone scoring in 2019.

Mendenhall doesn’t have to fire Anae; maybe just kick him upstairs, give the play-calling duties to somebody else, maybe, say, Jason Beck, the quarterbacks coach, or Marques Hagans, a former UVA QB who is now the wide-receivers coach.

Something needs to change, and this isn’t just a one-year something.

The offense has been stagnant since Mendenhall arrived, and the constant over the past three-plus years has been Anae’s game-planning and play-calling.

There’s a saying about the definition of insanity being doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

It’s hard to imagine the Virginia offense turning out a different result under the current OC.

Column by Chris Graham


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