Jay Woolfolk tweeted after Virginia’s 28-3 loss to Notre Dame on Saturday night that he needed to do better. UVA coach Bronco Mendenhall didn’t know about the tweet until his weekly presser on Monday.
“It doesn’t surprise me,” Mendenhall said. “I think that’s what leaders do, is they claim accountability. Jay has high standards for himself and for our team. It’s helpful for me to know. We monitor it as closely as we can, non-social media, work just to do it within the program.
“I would say in a way I am proud of him for claiming ownership, because that’s what leaders do. At the same time, I’ll add the realism as to the collective and where other areas can and need to improve. That’s part of my job, as well.”
Woolfolk may or may not be needed for a second start this weekend at Pitt. Mendenhall told reporters later in his presser than Brennan Armstrong, third in the nation in passing yards this season, is “hour to hour” in terms of his availability for practices and the game at Pitt after going down in the fourth quarter of the Oct. 30 loss at BYU.
Woolfolk, a true freshman, struggled at the controls of the nation’s top-ranked offense, going 18-of-33 for 196 yards and two INTs, while getting sacked seven times.
A lot of that had to do with what Notre Dame did defensively – blitzing on 21 of Woolfolk’s 43 dropbacks, assuming that sending extra guys would cloud the picture for a young quarterback still getting used to the speed of the game at the Power 5 level.
“Most of what happened in terms of pressure or sacks on Saturday was a matter of timing, where it was taking Jay a little longer to see, diagnose the coverage, deliver the ball prior to pressure arriving. Very seldom was there an unblocked player or someone getting beat. Kind of within the normal time frame of delivery, reads and balls could have been thrown,” Mendenhall said.
“However, let’s just be clear with the expectations. We’re talking now about a first-year quarterback that is seeing, reading, and his timing is becoming with every rep. A lot of that was just growing pains in terms of the timing, seeing it quickly enough. It was just taking him a little longer, like it would any of us, to see, read and react. Most of pressure, in answer to your question, would be just because of that. It was just taking Jay a little longer to diagnose.”
Getting used to the speed of the game takes time.
“That moves really quickly from seconds to, man, based on the number of football snaps that I’ve seen, there’s windows that open and close. Intuitively you know it’s on time or too late. That’s also based on the route and the play first the coverage and the pressure, right?” Mendenhall said. “There’s a core time frame, but that can accelerate, and seconds could be added or shaved based on then the look you’re seeing versus the play versus the coverage and where you’re throwing it, right? There’s a lot of variables in there which leads more to the intuition part, which takes time to get to that part. Yes, there’s a framework. Are there variables within that? Yes.”
Some help can come from the game planning. Mendenhall and offensive coordinator Robert Anae said last week that they were prepping a game plan for Notre Dame that would work with either Armstrong or Woolfolk at QB1.
That might have been aggressive with Woolfolk running a scheme designed for one of the nation’s best passers.
“We certainly have to be careful with the amount we give Jay in terms of motions, formations and shifts, just in the play,” Mendenhall said. “That expands over time. We’re being really methodical and sequential in his build in becoming a great quarterback, which he will. The tough part is the urgency we have, the teams we have coming up, right? That’s kind of where you can see the stress point. So, we’re managing both.”
Story by Chris Graham