Virginia showed massive improvement under Bronco Mendenhall last season when it advanced to its first ACC Championship Game. The Cavaliers finished the year with a 9-5 record and advanced to the Orange Bowl.
Now the Cavaliers look to continue their rise in the ACC with 16 starters returning from last season. But they still need to replace several key starters from last year’s Coastal Divisional Champions.
Like everyone in the ACC the last five years, Virginia fell prey to Clemson with a 45-point loss in the ACC Championship Game. The Cavaliers hope to put on a better performance at Memorial Stadium on Sept. 26.
Quarterback Bryce Perkins electrified the Coastal Division last season and helped the Wahoos achieve a level of success they have not seen in decades. But now they have to fill that void and hope to find success with sophomore Brennan Armstrong. They also need to fill two pivotal spots at wide receiver with promising young talent.
Positives include the return of the entire starting offensive line from 2019 and running back Wayne Taulapapa. It may take Virginia a few games to click on an offense that some expect to take a dip in 2020.
The other side of the ball looks far more promising for the Cavaliers as they return nine starters on that side of the ball. They return a whopping 15 players that started at least one game on defense.
Virginia recorded a sack on greater than 10-percent of opponent’s passing attempts which ranked third in the ACC and 10th in the nation. With a veteran defense returning the Cavaliers could be one of the best defenses in the conference.
Special teams look far less promising for the Wahoos who need to replace all of their key specialists. Spring practice would have been a key time for Virginia to figure itself out and now they have a short time to find their feet.
As of Sunday, Virginia had no updates on when student-athletes will return to campus in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Virginia President Jim Ryan said last month if the school does not allow students back on campus, then there will be not fall sports this year.
“Obviously, we need to have students back on grounds before football can begin,” UVa president Jim Ryan said on CBS’ Face the Nation. “But our athletic director, Carla Williams, and our head football coach, Bronco Mendenhall, are committed first and foremost to the safety and wellbeing of their players, our student-athletes. And they’ll begin practice when the medical experts tell them it’s safe to do so.”
Ryan is expected to share more information this month on the university’s potential return to in-person instruction for the fall semester.
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