UVA football coach Bronco Mendenhall talks NC State: ACC Teleconference
BRONCO MENDENHALL: Really excited to continue ACC play in week 2 after starting week 1 at home and having success. We’re anxious to grow our program and meet another challenge and do so on the road against a very good opponent.
We’re looking forward to the challenge and gearing up and bracing for the consistency required to play in the ACC.
I’ll be glad to take questions.
Q. You mentioned both Saturday and Monday, delegating play calling on the defensive side. Had you ever done that at Brigham Young, or is this the first time?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: I did it twice at Brigham Young and ended up resuming play calling. In one instance during the year and another instance at the end of the year. So I would view neither times before as successes long-term, but the intent was similar, to have a wider influence on the entire program in all facets than just on the defensive side.
The trade-off ended up being the defense wasn’t performing as well, and so I ended up moving back into that area. So less time had passed. I’d been with my coaches nearly — man, two or three times as long now, and I think the preparation is, at least to this point, shows that our organization was benefiting from it and can handle it.
Q. And is there a point where you do this and you delegate, particularly this season, the first time maybe that Coach Howell says something and makes a call that maybe you disagree with, do you veto? Do you just get the shakes? What happens?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: More the second. I’ve worked really hard to not micromanage and to allow as much autonomy as possible in all parts of our program, but part of that comes with people not calling or not running things exactly how you would. But that doesn’t mean worse. It just means different.
And so, yeah, there are habits in place and certain things that I would say you call or say that would be different. But yeah, I twitch it on occasion, but doing my best to show a calm outside demeanor.
Q. It seems that at Brigham Young you had a rather long series with Boise State, and if I’m not mistaken, you have faced Ryan Finley before; is that correct?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: That’s correct.
Q. What is your sense?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: Yeah, I was impressed then. I remember bits and pieces of the game. It was a victory at Brigham Young I think was our last time that — or the time that I saw NC State’s quarterback.
Since that time, maturity, experience, consistency have all increased from I would say the earlier version, which would be maybe the same for any of us.
Q. Going back to what David was asking you, was there something about Nick and his development, progression as a coach that you particularly noticed that led you to make the decision you made now?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: A cumulative effect, really not any tipping point moment, other than, man, 12 or 13 years we’ve been together. But not only 12 or 13 years with Nick and I, three other graduate assistants that have all been trained and groomed and brought up in the same system, under the same leader. And so this wasn’t only about Nick, it was about the support he could receive and their level of competency, as well. I would say professionally they’d still be viewed as a relatively young staff, but what they are is a group that really works together well. They’re bright. They have a lot of initiative, and they’ve all been trained under a similar philosophy. And so I thought the collective and the support would also be really powerful, so that besides Nick’s growth and development, and Kelly Poppinga now is co-coordinator. His growth and development, it also includes Shane and Vic. Yeah, it really speaks to the group as much as the individual.
Q. I’m writing a story about those guys, and Kelly mentioned that — I apologize if this is random, but you got them into mountain biking back at BYU. Tell me a little bit about that.
BRONCO MENDENHALL: Well, so I love solitude. It’s part of what I do to manage energy, which helps sustain, I think, anyone in a demanding and stressful position, and I started that early in my career. Even when I was in high school, I had an older brother that was an avid mountain biker, even when the first generations of bikes came out, and he was just fearless.
So I started then, and I’ve ridden to and from work really at every place that I’ve coached, from Oregon State to New Mexico to Northern Arizona and to Brigham Young. There was a nice path that was long and I could get to and from work if I left early. And so I’ve just really enjoyed it.
And then along the way, I exposed both Nick and Kelly to that as well as our other coaches, and yeah, it just kind of becomes something we all like to do now. Kelly has gone from being maybe the slowest possible mountain biker in the history of downhill to actually where he goes pretty fast now, which is fun. That’s an exaggeration.
Q. Can you still ride to work?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: You know, I could, but I don’t like to here because there’s no shoulder. The reason I like mountain biking is there’s no cars, and there’s not a direct access on trails from my house. And to get on the road, yeah, there’s just not quite the shoulders there are out west. But I do — I don’t ride to work, but I leave my office frequently, and I hit the trail right where our current softball field is, that area. I can get about an hour and a half winding through the trails.
Q. Quarterback Bryce Perkins, what you can say about — I know most recently hurdled a defender, busted plays that he’ll turn into something; just what he’s been to you and what you’re seeing on the film right now of his elusiveness and obviously his ability to create plays.
BRONCO MENDENHALL: Yeah, just that. He creates plays and he’s productive. He keeps drives alive when execution breaks down, and that gives us a chance for a consistency that we haven’t had on the previous two years where it took execution, and if the play broke down, it broke down, and the result would show that.
With Bryce, if there is a miscue, if there is poor execution or a play breaks down, there’s still a possibility of the play being salvaged, the drive being salvaged, and points going on the board. Just really productive and very effective.
Q. He came from Arizona Western Community College. What you can say about the importance of head coaches not just yourself but coaches around the country looking at JuCo and at the talent at junior colleges and how you can stumble upon a diamond in the rough like Bryce Perkins.
BRONCO MENDENHALL: Yeah, well, I’m a product of junior college football. I played in junior college. I also coached in junior college, and so there are plenty of players and people that have made an impact and will continue to make an impact, have traveled that road that might not have been as polished or maybe late developers or maybe made a poor decision or two that have allowed them to take the harder road.
Anyone that doesn’t intentionally look there, and I don’t think it’s stumbled upon, I think there’s an intentional looking for. If you frame the criteria appropriately, there’s a great chance you’ll find an answer or two in the junior college ranks as well as prep schools and other maybe different and maybe unorthodox ways for someone to reach into the college football ranks.
Q. I was curious, in watching film on NC State, what have you seen from their offensive line?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: From their offensive line, well, I think the first thing is you just go to their production in terms of yardage, so they’re very effective throwing football team. If you look at yardage and accuracy, which that means they have to be protected well because you can’t throw for those yardage numbers and you can’t throw with that effectiveness if you’re not able to be protected. So they’re clearly protecting their quarterback well and they’re complementing that with an effective run game.
Yeah, they’re good enough to have NC State playing well on a yearly basis now under Dave, as well as just kind of reloading now rather than rebuilding. They’ve been together long enough as a program to where their specifications are pretty clear what they’re looking for, who they’re looking for, and what kind of qualities they want, and it shows up in their O-line.