UVA football coach Bronco Mendenhall talks Georgia Tech: ACC Teleconference

uva acc kickoff bronco mendenhallCOACH MENDENHALL: I’m glad to be with you. Anxious to play football again this weekend. Welcome the task of taking on Georgia Tech and the unique challenges that they pose.

I love my team, the progress we’re making, and the direction we’re going. And so I’ll be glad to take questions.

Q. Given that you’re playing at 3:30 and Pitt kicks at noon, will you follow, do a little scoreboard watching?
COACH MENDENHALL: You know, probably not any more than what we normally do as coaches. I think the most difficult thing to manage is the time from you wake up until the time you play. And so most of us occupy ourselves with either reading or watching TV or following football.

And even to the point when, once you arrive at the opponent’s stadium, which most teams do about two hours in advance, there’s still just an agonizing wait and you’re looking for time-fillers. So many coaches are on their phones and following scores, or if there’s a TV, watching a game. It will be typical and normal practice for us.

So, yes, we’ll be following, but that’s kind of what we always do.

Q. Is there much preparation difference between Tobias Oliver and TaQuon Marshall?
COACH MENDENHALL: There is some preparation difference. It doesn’t mean that the offense couldn’t be run by both. But different parts of their offense is highlighted by which quarterback is in and kind of tailored to their skill set. So there are subtle differences that we’ve acknowledged and I think Georgia Tech would acknowledge, but not sweeping differences. So enough for us to notice but not enough for the plan to significantly change.

Q. What can you share about your center situation, and what happens if Jake Fieler plays center? Does Knutson take his spot?
COACH MENDENHALL: We’ve received good news yesterday, Dylan Reinkensmeyer, his concussion protocol was cleared. So he’ll return to play. So we will be back with our starting center, which is great news for us.

If for some reason that didn’t happen and Fieler was at center, then most likely Bobby Haskins would be the next player that becomes available and then kind of rolls shift with the tackles possibly becoming guards before Ben Knutson would be the option.

Q. What does it say for Jake Fieler that he’s played all these different positions, and at a time of need the other day he jumped right in?
COACH MENDENHALL: It’s awesome. We talk about kind of three criteria and three things that are really valued in our program — durability and consistency and productivity. And, man, when you can do those things and do them at multiple positions, that’s really impactful.

Bill Belichick, one time, I heard say the more you can do the more you can do. And that’s what Jake Fieler is and knowing that the more you can do, the more valuable you are. And he has a huge role for us and his value is at a higher level than his peers on the offensive line, simply because he can play multiple spots.

Q. Bronco, just curious if you could give us an update on Joey Blount and if he’s going to be able to go this weekend?
COACH MENDENHALL: Joey Blount does not look like he’s going to be able to play. Not completely ruled out. But I would say it’s doubtful at best that he’d be able to play.

Q. I wanted to ask you about Eli Hanback. With all the flux and injuries and everything you’ve dealt with on the “D” line, how important has Eli been and his consistency?
COACH MENDENHALL: Hard to even gauge what that’s like. Without Eli, the defensive line situation would become just in total disarray with no anchor points or no cultural holdover or no experience to have as a launch point or reference point for everyone else for what we want them to do, how we want them to do it and with what mindset.

So Eli, I think, has started now every game for the three years I’ve been here, and is just the epitome of less drama and more work. And he’s just always available. And he’s critical to what we’re doing. And I’m not quite sure what we would do if he wasn’t available.

Q. Dylan Thompson, what have you been able to get out of him at this point? And how much will you play him in the next few games?
COACH MENDENHALL: Not for sure yet how much he’ll play in the next few games. What he is providing is depth, not only for practice but possible depth for the game. He’s learning still about our culture, about the work ethic necessary, about the demand that is always being called on and the simple volume of doing hard things. And so he’s accustomizing himself to that. Is being considered to play but we haven’t decided how much.

Q. You mentioned the other day that you were pleased with the development of Darrius Bratton. And that I see where he’s not listed as a safety but I think you indicated early on he’s getting some time at safety; is that correct?
COACH MENDENHALL: Yeah, he is. He’s cross-training for us while Joey Blount is hurt. And as Brenton Nelson was dinged up as well, we weren’t sure if Brenton would be able to play a week ago. And if that wasn’t the case, Darrius would have been playing that safety spot. So Darrius has been cross-training at safety and corner. And we really like what he’s doing. And so, yeah, he could appear in the remainder of the games that we play this season at either corner or safety.

Q. As you looked at the Georgia Tech defense on film, what stands out about them?
COACH MENDENHALL: I think they have — so they play 3-4. And as someone that philosophically, that likes that scheme, I watch them closely. I think they’ve made significant progress in kind of a renewed energy and culture and effort in terms of playing hard and playing aggressive.

I think their defensive ends are especially active. I like the way they play, and I think they’re solid and stout at nose tackle. So I like the defensive line as kind of the beginning of what they do on defense. I think it’s driven by those three. My eyes are drawn to those guys when I watch them play. And I think they kind of set the tone for the rest of the group which I think has made significant progress as I’ve watched them through game one to this point.

And I think it has certainly attributed to the kind of insurgence their team is having or has had with their winning streak and their recent success.

Q. Bryce Hall joked the other day that this weekend you won’t be DB-U; you’re going to be Linebacker-U. Obviously you want everybody tackling on every play, but especially against a triple-option team, how important is it to get the secondary involved in the tackling?
COACH MENDENHALL: If you want to play good defense they have to be involved. If the secondary is not involved in tackling and making plays, then you’re just going to get beat. So in my experience with the option, there’s no such thing as a cover corner. There’s no such thing as a safety that is deep middle or has range.

This is about run and pass recognition. And if it’s run, every player of the 11 out there better be a tackler. And then if you discern and distinguish pass, then they can become, flip gears back to a DB. But they have to decide that kind of during the play.

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