New Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall: A marathon, not a sprint

bronco1Considering the schedule the next couple of weeks for new Virginia football coach Bronco Mendenhall, it’s not hard to see why coaches don’t stick around for bowl games when they take a new job.

And actually, let’s look more than the next couple of weeks down the road. Look out from now through the first week of April.

First order of business for Mendenhall is getting a staff together. He said Monday that he expects to bring along a lot of his staff from BYU, but there are moving parts there.

Coinciding with getting a staff together is recruiting. National Signing Day is Feb. 3, eight weeks away.

Outgoing coach Mike London had put together a full class for 2016 before he resigned last week, but it can be assumed that Mendenhall and his new staff will have some reselling to do to seal the deal between now and Signing Day.

Spring practice, then, is roughly six weeks out from there, in mid-March. And somewhere in there, you need to find time to meet and get to know players in person and on film, to figure out how everybody fits into the program and the new schemes that will be used on offense, defense and special teams.

And then there’s the work that will need to be done to get acclimated to the ACC. Mendenhall’s experience is out West. Aside from playing Virginia in a home-and-home in 2013 and 2014, BYU’s most recent ACC opponent was Florida State in 2009.

The inclination would be to try to sprint, beginning with a recruiting road trip. Mendenhall is taking a different approach, beginning with unfinished business back at BYU.

“Right now the No. 1 focus is to help the team that I’m leading win their game,” said Mendenhall, whose Cougars (9-3) have a Dec. 19 date in the Las Vegas Bowl with in-state rival Utah (9-3).

Calling Utah an in-state rival doesn’t do it justice. Imagine Virginia-Virginia Tech if they weren’t in the ACC and weren’t on each other’s schedules.

Yeah.

With regard to recruits: “Will 13 days be a deal breaker for any recruit? If they are, I don’t want them,” Mendenhall said.

“I’ll do anything I can to make phone calls at night after the renewal and after I’ve helped our team and after I’ve game planned, and it might be 5:00 at night, something like that. I’ll work all the way through our current commitments, and if they can’t understand that, then again, that’s pretty shortsighted,” Mendenhall said.

Virginia got its man, but he’s a part-timer for the next two weeks.

“We’ll start the 20th of December being single-minded about UVA,” Mendenhall said.

Good enough. Because when he’s piling up W’s the next few years, nobody will remember that he got a late start.

– Story by Chris Graham