Bronco Mendenhall was a defensive coach who came to Virginia from BYU intent on making UVA a tougher, more hard-nosed football program. He had some good defenses and some moderately good seasons, but the best achievements of Mendenhall’s tenure were based on having a super-powered offense, which could win track meets against opponents with weak defenses.
Last year’s Virginia team got into a lot of shootouts, one of them being a 66-49 loss to BYU, Mendenhall’s former team. Virginia played entertaining football, but the product was inconsistent and soft. It wasn’t the way Mendenhall prefers to play football, and after the 2021 season, he stepped away from coaching.
Maybe he was burned out. Maybe he simply wanted a change of pace in his life. At any rate, Virginia had to turn the page, and it will be fascinating to see how the Cavaliers respond to their new identity this year.
How The Team Changed This Offseason
Coach Tony Elliott takes the keys to the Virginia program. He comes from Clemson, where he worked under head coach Dabo Swinney. People in and around the college football industry, not just in the ACC but across the nation, think Virginia made a very good hire with Elliott, who coached Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence and brings substantial credentials to the job in Charlottesville.
The one big obvious question surrounding Elliott is that he has never been a head coach before. He will need to prove himself in that regard. As for developing quarterbacks, however, Elliott comes to Virginia as a proven, reputable teacher of the position.
Virginia Will Be Successful If…
The defense can be moderately competent and take small steps forward this season. It’s not as though Virginia needs to dominate on defense to win games. The BYU game would have been a victory if Virginia had allowed 40 points, but it allowed 66.
This defense needs to be able to generate some pressure on opposing quarterbacks; it really didn’t measure up in that regard in 2021. Virginia also has to find a way to minimize big plays. Shutting off the deep pass and the quick-strike touchdown from opponents has to become a more regular reality for Virginia football this season.
Virginia Will Disappoint If…
The offensive line collapses. Virginia has lost multiple players along the offensive line from 2021, some of them from the transfer portal. Offensive line Bobby Haskins was one of the most experienced offensive linemen in the ACC, and he transferred to the University of Southern California.
Losing Haskins to USC is a major hit for the offense as a whole. Being able to replace these linemen is a central task for Elliott and his staff this season. This juggling act on the roster will test Elliott right out of the gate at Virginia.
The One Best Virginia Cavaliers Bet Is…
Regular season win total: 7.5 wins
Virginia has a highly flawed defense and those aforementioned concerns along the offensive line. However, getting quarterback Brennan Armstrong back for another season, with some elite receivers to throw to, should give Elliiott a high-powered offense in the first year of his tenure.
The NCAAF odds show that this team has a regular season win total of 7.5 Virginia will lose a few games to teams with really good defenses, but it will outscore everyone else. Go with the over.