augusta free press news

UVA Football: A look inside a virtual college football program

uva footballRobert Anae has been coaching football for 33 years. The challenge facing football coaches this spring is, putting it mildly, “uncharted territory.”

“Nothing’s ever come close to this,” said Anae, the offensive coordinator at Virginia, one of three ACC programs that hadn’t yet started spring practice when college sports shut down due to COVID-19 last month.

There are bigger issues facing society, obviously, but you also have to think that the world will return to some semblance of normal in the coming weeks and months, that the season opener in Atlanta against SEC power Georgia on Labor Day night will be happening, in some way, shape or form.

For football coaches at UVA, then, that has meant devising training programs for players spread out across the country that the compliance staff says can’t be monitored, meaning, “the guys are on their own to develop themselves,” Anae said.

Head coach Bronco Mendenhall has devised a system in which players are paired up with partners to check on each other every day, and those pairs ultimately report to team leaders in a kind of chain of authority, defensive coordinator Nick Howell said.

Coaches are allowed to have contact with players, as they would be in normal situations, with student-athletes on Grounds, to check in, see how things are going, maintain basic contact, and that is something that is done on a daily basis with position coaches leading that effort.

And the staff still has regular meetings, virtually, via Zoom, to talk football.

Players and coaches talking with the media over the past few weeks think Mendenhall, the auteur of “earned, not given,” as the mantra of Virginia football, is actually embracing the challenge of the spring as a chance for players and coaches to learn and grow.

“He always believes in will versus will before skill, and trying to adapt over adversity. And this is what it is, it’s kind of adversity,” special-teams coordinator Ricky Brumfield said. “I’ve been impressed with how he’s adapted so quickly in just the organization that he’s given us to help improve the players’ mindset and plan in place to try to beat Georgia.”

Story by Chris Graham