CHARLOTTESVILLE — When head coach Bronco Mendenhall elected to go with a no-huddle offense for his first Virginia team, he cited the headaches that the no-huddle look had given him as a defensive coordinator.
Apparently, opposing defensive coordinators did not have the same issues when facing UVa in 2016.
After finishing 2-10 in Mendenhall’s first season, the Cavaliers will be going with a more conventional offensive set-up this season.
Virginia was 112th out of 128 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision in total offense, 115th in rushing offense and 121st in scoring offense.
“I think for this season and I think for our current team, the huddle is where we need to be, simply because we’re managing a fairly limited roster and pretty specific skill sets,” Mendenhall said.
“A little more time between plays allows us to put the right players in the right spots.”
On the defense
Mendenhall favored a 3-4 defense in his first season as Virginia coach but that doesn’t mean the Cavaliers won’t be using other fronts.
“I’d rather not say,” he told reporters. “There’s something to be said about competitive advantage and [not revealing] what we line up in and how. I like the best 11 football players on the field. That’s what I’m after.”
Much of Mendenhall’s first preseason camp last year was devoted to installing new offensive and defensive systems and teaching the players how to perform such simple tasks as running onto the field. Now it’s more about playing football, Mendenhall said.
“I feel like it’s doing nothing but making us tougher, especially the young guys that haven’t been here as long, but they are really getting the mindset of, they’ve got to come ready to bang every day,” said fifth-year tailback Daniel Hamm, a Fort Chiswell graduate.
Mendenhall said that Hamm and Warren Craft, a wide receiver from William Fleming, had missed time due to injuries, but Hamm said he expects to return “in a couple of days,” and Mendenhall stressed that Craft no longer has concussion issues that limited him to four games in 2016.
Hamm, with 100 career carries for 462 yards, is the leading all-time rusher among UVa returnees. He also has played in more games, 37, than any other player. He received a medical redshirt after suffering a season-ending injury as a true freshman in 2013.
Mendenhall said that punters and place-kickers have been inconsistent to date and that nobody has emerged as a front-runner. He’d also like to see more accuracy from the UVa snappers.
Lester Coleman from Martinsville was the back-up last year to Nicholas Conte, a first-team All-ACC selection as a senior. Coleman’s competition this year is from Nash Griffin, a 2016 walk-on, and Brian Delaney, an All-America last year at Westfield High School in Chantilly.
Delaney is a candidate for punts, placements and kickoffs.
“I think I’ve had a really strong camp,” said Coleman, who is favoring the neon shoes previously favored by Conte. “I’ve been consistent. I’m putting the ball up high. I really like where I’m at now.”
Mendenhall has extended scholarships to a trio of walk-ons, including two seniors, quarterback Joe Spaziani and wide receiver Braedon Urie. Likely to see playing time is Brenton Nelson from Winter Springs, Florida, by way of DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Maryland.
Spaziani, the son of former Boston College head coach and ex-UVa defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani, assumed long-snapping duties for the last four games of the 2017 season. Nelson was an All-America track performer who had a state-leading 10 interceptions as a sophomore in Florida.