Bronco Mendenhall

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Lining up first winning season since 2011, could Virginia play for ACC championship?

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In his third season at Virginia, Bronco Mendenhall has the Cavaliers surprisingly in position to play in the ACC Championship Game for the first time in program history. Considering the state of the program when he took over a few years ago, that is a solid achievement.

Virginia’s 28-14 win at Duke on Saturday improved Virginia to 5-2 overall and 3-1 in the ACC. On top of that, Virginia owns head-to-head tiebreakers against Miami and Duke. The only team sitting in front of Virginia in the ACC Coastal Division is Virginia Tech. If Virginia continues to handle their business the next few weeks with home games against North Carolina and Pittsburgh, that could set the stage for a showdown in Blacksburg on the final weekend of the regular season with the Coastal Division on the line.

Virginia Tech is 3-0 in the ACC. The Hokies have a schedule that is back-loaded with home games in the second half of the year too, although that includes some potential stiff challenges from Boston College and Miami in Blacksburg on top of Virginia on the final weekend of the year. Virginia Tech must also travel to Pittsburgh, where the Panthers are a tough team to figure out on any given week. You never know what could happen against the Panthers.

The remaining schedule may look more difficult for Virginia Tech, but the benefit of only having to go on the road just once for the rest of the season could give the Hokies the advantage.

Mendenhall may still have some work to do with the Virginia program, but after going 2-10 in his first season in 2016 and 6-7 last year, Mendenhall has Virginia eyeing up its first winning season since 2011. Whether or not that includes a trip to the ACC Championship Game at the end of the year, the 2018 season is already turning out to be a step forward for the program under Mendenhall.

All-ACC safety Quin Blanding returning to Virginia in 2017

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While not too many things ended up going well for Virginia in the first season under new head coach Bronco Mendenhall, one bright spot was the play of junior safety Quin Blanding. On Monday, Virginia announced Blanding has decided to return to the program for his final year of eligibility in 2017, providing a nice boost to the defensive outlook for the Cavaliers next fall.

“After careful thought and consideration, I have decided to stay at the University of Virginia and complete my fourth year,” Blanding said in a released statement. “I am fully committed to coach Bronco Mendenhall, coach Nick Howell and the entire coaching staff and the program they are building. I am committed to my teammates and want to help lead my team to a bowl game while at UVA.”

Virginia confirmed Blanding had submitted his name for an evaluation from the NFL College Advisory Committee. What the results were is unconfirmed, although it would seem it was not enticing enough to make the jump from college to the pros at this point in time. The All-ACC was named a second team All-American by multiple organizations this past fall after recording 10.0 tackles per game and 120 total tackles for the Cavaliers.

Former Virginia receiver sues school for alleged bullying and hazing

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Former Virginia wide receiver Aidan Howard is suing the University of Virginia for what he claims to have been a “culture of bullying, abuse, harassment, and discrimination.” According to Howard’s lawsuit, he claims to have witnessed football players force teammates to imitate and mimic sexual acts and forced players to fight and wrestle while naked or partially naked.

Howard’s lawsuit was filed Friday in a district court in Pennsylvania, according to a report from ESPN. In addition to the university,Virginia wide receivers Doni Dowling and David Eldridge are named as defendants. Another defendant name din the lawsuit is Virginia wide receivers coach Marques Hagans. Head coach Bronco Mendenhall is not a defendant in the suit.

In the lawsuit, Howard claims coaches were aware of injuries suffered through such acts but did not step in to bring an end to the behavior within the Virginia program. Furthermore, the lawsuit argues the school, school officials and coaches as well as students may have been in violation of Title IX laws, in part stemming from verbal insults Howard claims were hurled at players. Hagan has also been diagnosed with a learning disability, which he believes led to some of the allegedly discriminatory insults directed at him.

Howard’s suit claims that coaches knew about his injuries and what caused them, but did nothing to reprimand the football players who he says verbally and physically assaulted him, nor did they enforce school and NCAA rules against hazing, bullying and discrimination. The suit alleges that the university, administrators, coaches and fellow students violated aspects of federal Title IX gender equity laws, the Americans with Disabilities Act and negligence laws, among others.

“[They] would question Aidan’s ‘toughness’ and ‘manliness’ and would call him ‘stupid,’ ‘dumb,’ ‘slow,’ and ‘retarded,'” the lawsuit states.

“We want some accountability by the university and the student-athletes who were responsible for doing this to Aidan,” said Howard’s attorney, C. James Zeszutek. “Now these student-athletes are continuing to play their sport, continuing to attend classes, and there’s been no ramifications to them whatsoever. Our client is a victim who has been injured, damaged and he’s out of competition this year.”

Howard was granted a release from the Virginia program in August. He transferred to Robert Morris University.

[ESPN]

Virginia wraps up spring still searching for starting QB

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Bronco Mendenhall had the luxury of having some stable quarterback options to work with running his offense at BYU, but in his first season at Virginia, he will see a quarterback competition continue after the spring. As is typically the case at a number of college football programs once the spring season concludes, there is as much uncertainty at the quarterback situation as any at Virginia.

Our quarterback situation right now has not revealed itself,” said offensive coordinator Robert Anae, according to The Free Lance-Star. “So we’re going to continue to go into fall camp, and it may take all of fall camp before we get to the bottom of it.”

The two main competitors for the starting job for the Cavaliers are Matt Johns and Connor Brewer. Johns handled the majority of the offensive responsibilities last season, leading the offense with mixed results. Johns opened the spring as Virginia’s first-string quarterback but wrapped up with him seeing split duties with Brewer, a former Texas Longhorn and Arizona Wildcat.

“Matt was the returning starter and he started practice that way, taking the first reps,” said quarterbacks coach Jason Beck. “But then as we went on, Connor was playing really well. So we just split up the reps, made an even competition and they went after it every day that way.”

Each quarterback has their strengths and weaknesses depending on the style of offensive play calling, so whichever style ends up being the way Mendenhall and the Virginia staff choose to roll with could determine which player gets the nod. Brewer could be more of an ideal fit if Virginia chooses to take to the air with a more pass-heavy attack, but Johns could be the go-to guy should the Cavaliers look to keep things a bit more balanced and grounded if he can improve his decision-making and cut down on turnovers.

Virginia’s first game of the 2016 season is at home against FCS Richmond, which could be an opportunity to give each quarterback a live audition in a real game situation.

2015 college football coaching carousel has two spots to fill (for now)

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With Louisiana-Monroe getting their new head coach all settled, this year’s FBS college football coaching carousel appears to be slowing down and coming to a close. There are just two more spots to fill, for now.BYU and Georgia Southern are the last two schools with vacancies currently open at this moment.

BYU and Georgia Southern are the last two schools with vacancies currently open at this moment. BYU is reportedly meeting with Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo, who has explained why he might be interested in at least hearing what the school has to say about the job. Bronco Mendenhall is leaving BYU for Virginia but will remain in charge of the program through BYU’s bowl game matchup against Utah in the Las Vegas Bowl. Perhaps Mendenhall will give Niumatalolo his endorsement of the job on his way out, although it should be noted Niumatalolo has a pretty good situation already with the Navy program.

At Georgia Southern, the search is on to replace Willie Fritz, who has accepted a position as head coach at Tulane. For now, Dell McGee is taking on the role of interim head coach as Georgia Southern prepares for its first bowl game in program history, the GoDaddy Bowl against Bowling Green (who, coincidently is also undergoing a coaching change). Which direction the school goes from here remains unknown, whether it promotes from within from anyone who sticks around, finds an FCS coach ready to take the next step or finds an assistant coach from somewhere else ready to try their hand at head coaching.

These two spots are still left unfilled, but it remains to be seen just what could happen to open up another position or two. With the NFL season coming down its home stretch, the NFL coaching carousel figures to once again keep some college coaches in the discussion, whether legitimate or not. Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly and UCLA’s Jim Mora have been names mentioned before, and could very well be thrown around once more. Keep an eye on the NFL coaching changes, because until that is filled, the coaching carousel will continue to be in motion, just in case.