Virginia getting a lot of production from the QB room these days

uva footballBronco Mendenhall, a numbers guy, a defense-first guy, doesn’t come across as the kind of coach who would sign off on having multiple quarterbacks on the field at the same time.

And yet …

“It’s just the maximization of resources, right, so we’re looking at every good football player on our team, and we’ve got four different quarterbacks that all can do different things, and there’s no reason they all have to play quarterback. And so we’re just maximizing any good football player on our team, putting him out there in as many unique, creative, but productive ways as we can, and so the concepts remain relatively the same, not always, but relatively the same. The personnel and maybe the formations that we use, those are kind of where the main differences come. Just to highlight the best players on our team,” Mendenhall said this week.

What a great problem to have, right? The QB1, Brennan Armstrong, threw for 339 yards and two TDs, and ran for two more, in last week’s 43-0 win over William & Mary, but he wasn’t the only QB to take snaps ahead of garbage time.

Keytaon Thompson and Ira Armstead led the ‘Hoos in receiving and rushing, respectively – Thompson with five catches on six targets for 66 yards, adding 43 yards on four carries on the ground, Armstead, nominally the backup quarterback, gaining 54 yards on the ground on five carries.

The fourth-string QB, freshman Jacob Rodriguez, got 10 snaps at wideout and running back, and ran four times for 31 yards.

That’s a lot of production across the board from the QB room.

You can only imagine the twisting of arms behind the scenes from offensive coordinator Robert Anae to get Mendenhall to agree to this.

Though actually, no. Mendenhall is 100 percent on board.

“I think we saw some of the benefits a year ago, and I think we certainly saw it happening throughout the course of just this one game,” Mendenhall said. “Yeah, so there are certain plays where we are using different quarterbacks. Man, I think the play count and the volume isn’t enough to truly affect what we’re doing mostly, and I think for the possible benefit, it’s a good trade. So, I believe in the idea.”

We knew going in that Thompson would line up all over the place, and had a good idea that Armstead would see some action, with what he was able to show in limited action in 2020.

Rodriguez getting those 11 snaps, none of them at QB, was the revelation.

“We still consider him a quarterback, it’s just while he’s battling in the quarterback world, there’s no reason he can’t help us and play football,” said Mendenhall, who listed Rodriguez on the two-deep, along with Thompson, under the line item “FBP” – “football player.”

“We have a saying here that playing is more fun than watching, so he’s still a quarterback, but that doesn’t mean he can’t carry the ball and he can’t do other things while he’s becoming our quarterback.  But we saw it in the spring, and I was really impressed then,” Mendenhall said.

This all started, you might remember, when Thompson, a grad transfer from Mississippi State, injured the labrum in his right shoulder late in training camp last summer, and Anae and Mendenhall asked him if he wanted some snaps at wildcat QB and wideout as he recovered.

Then Armstrong went down to injury in the home loss to NC State, and Anae went with a three-QB system featuring Thompson, Armstead and Lindell Stone for the following week at Wake Forest that seemed to work in terms of moving the ball.

Anae continued tinkering with the playbook when Armstrong returned, then had the offseason to add some mad scientist elements to the mix.

“A lot of this is coming from being on the defensive side, and those are all things that are challenging,” Mendenhall said. “Hopefully it adds some value to our offense, but also some of those kids are really good carrying the football. They’re good throwing it. They’re good football players. When they’ve played that position, the game is not – it seems to be slower for them right from the beginning with their training, and so they’re more ready to play and play early.”

Story by Chris Graham

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