CHARLOTTESVILLE — There was no question what was coming as Virginia football coach Bronco Mendenhall took a seat to begin his weekly Monday news conference.
As many had expected following the Cavaliers’ 17-9 loss Friday night at Miami, All-ACC cornerback Bryce Hall has been lost for the season with a left-ankle injury.
Since he already had played in five games in his fourth season, Hall is ineligible for a fifth year in 2020.
“He has signed a release just allowing me to update you,” Mendenhall said Monday. “He’s in good spirits. We expect a full recovery.”
Hall underwent surgery Sunday morning in Charlottesville.
“He will not return this season and we’ll help him rehab for his next opportunity,” said Mendenhall, realizing that Hall would have attracted considerable NFL interest if he would have made himself available after the 2018 season.
“On the bus after the game, he was sitting right behind me and I turned around. I usually have something kind of quick-witted to say to our players and nothing came out. I said, ‘Yeah, I’ve got nothing.’”
For the first time since his freshman year, Hall did not show up on the depth chart Monday as the Cavaliers (4-2, 2-1 ACC) started to make plans for a 3:30 p.m. Saturday home match-up with Coastal Division rival Duke.
Slated to start in his boundary corner spot is De’Vante Cross, who was the back-up free safety for the Cavaliers’ game at Miami.
“Coach [Nick] Howell does a really nice job of prioritizing and ranking players really daily and weekly in the event that a player is hurt [and] who would then be the next up,” Mendenhall said.
“That’s not specific to position played. It’s to always allow us to have the best four or five on the field at the same time.”
Cross passed for nearly 3,000 yards as a senior at Parkland High School in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and was recruited by several schools as a quarterback. He got a look at QB from the Cavaliers and had five rushing attempts in 2017, as well as one reception in each of the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
It appears that he will be a full-time defender now, with redshirt freshman Jaylon Baker apparently serving as the first player off the bench at cornerback. Chris Moore, who came off the bench at Miami, apparently will serve as the back-up free safety, the spot previously held by Cross.
“Not a lot of coordinators do this — or not a lot of teams do — but sometimes with an injury, the game plan remains as if nothing has changed,” Mendenhall said. “As it became critical, the place where they targeted was Bryce’s position.
“De’Vante held up well. It doesn’t mean that he played [like] Bryce, nor should he. So, we have some adjustments we need to make there and we will, but De’Vante [and] his ability to play corner is what will happen.”
Two other cornerbacks have been lost for the season, sophomore Shawn Smith and junior Darrius Bratton, a part-time starter in 2018 who sustained a torn ACL at the start of preseason camp.
Mendenhall said Friday’s game was lost when the Hurricanes, who were leading 10-9 at the time, drove 75 yards in 10 plays and scored on quarterback N’kosi Perry’s 3-yard run with 2:31 left.
Going into that drive, Miami had a total of 190 yards of offense, arguably a stout defensive performance with or without Hall.
“Ultimately, our execution offensively inside the 30 became the real storybook,” said Mendenhall, whose team failed to score a touchdown for the first time in 21 games, going back to a 10-0 loss to Virginia Tech in 2016.
“Any time we make trips to the red zone [inside an opponent’s 20-yard line], we expect touchdowns at least 50% of the time.”
Virginia had six possessions inside the Miami 30-yard line. The result was three field goals, a missed field goal, a fumble and a turnover on downs.