Mendenhall breaks down QB decision: Armstrong ‘best player for us at that spot’
Bronco Mendenhall explained his decision to go with Brennan Armstrong as his starting quarterback as being based on a simple mantra that he follows: the facts are our friends.
“The numbers matter to me: completion percentage, how the offense is moving the ball, touchdowns scored, and all the things that are relevant to helping our team win,” Mendenhall said. “We chart everything, and I was just really impressed with his numbers and the results. And that led to a body of work, and that was, over time, a cumulative effect that made it clear to me that he was the best player for us at that spot.”
Armstrong, a redshirt sophomore, appeared in 11 career games in 2018 and 2019 as the primary back-up to Bryce Perkins, going 17-of-25 for 258 passing yards and two TDs and adding 93 yards on 16 carries on the ground.
Under the NCAA redshirt rules, Armstrong retained his freshman season after appearing in only four games in 2018.
The job seemed to be Armstrong’s for sure heading into the spring, but then Mississippi State grad transfer Keytaon Thompson was added to the mix in May.
Thompson, a junior in terms of eligibility, transferred to UVA in May, appeared in 20 career games for Mississippi State over the 2017, 2018 and 2019 seasons, though he appeared in just one game in 2019, which he was able to use as a redshirt year.
A consensus four-star recruit coming out of high school, Thompson was 2-0 as a starter, including leading the Bulldogs to a 31-27 win over he Lamar Jackson-led Louisville Cardinals in the 2017 Taxslayer Bowl, rushing for three scores and tying a MSU bowl record.
“Keytaon is an amazing athlete, big and strong and physical, and very good with the ball in his hands as a runner, more dynamic in that capacity,” Mendenhall said.
“Brennan is probably more well-rounded from all parts of quarterback play,” Mendenhall said. “And so, more options, and more versatility, would be probably the best way I would describe it, but really impressed with Keytaon as well.”
Mendenhall went on to heap praise on his two other scholarship quarterbacks: true freshman Ira Armstead and senior Lindell Stone.
Stone, Mendenhall said, has been a “player-coach on the field,” helping the younger players with their development.
Armstead, a three-star recruit from South Bend, Ind., is coming along much faster than the coaching staff would have expected from a player in his first camp.
“I won’t say surprised, but a really pleasant outcome so far, is also Ira Armstead as a first-year quarterback. He’s done a really nice job,” Mendenhall said.
“He’s long, and he’s tall, and he’s fast, and he’s dynamic, and he’s productive, and he’s elusive. And he’s catching up in terms of playing the position of quarterback, and he’s catching up in terms of the scheme. He’s catching up in terms of his assignments, but the other parts are really impressive,” Mendenhall said.
Story by Chris Graham