“It’s different from going out and throwing with the guys and actually getting live reps with the defense out there and just training, connection, chemistry-building,” Armstrong said recently during a video conference call with reporters. “Yeah, it sucks, but just going to work with what we got going forward.”
A significant portion of Armstrong’s preparation these days are regular video conversations with Cavaliers quarterbacks coach Jason Beck. They watch game tape together and discuss throwing motion, timing and other details about playing the position.
Armstrong also stays in touch with college teammates, particularly a group of wide receivers featuring Terrell Jana and Billy Kemp, through phone calls and texts, although long-distance communication hardly serves as an adequate replacement for practice.
Jana and Kemp are in line to replace seniors Joe Reed and Hasise Dubois, who led Virginia with 1,062 receiving yards on 75 catches last season. Reed was first in receptions (77) and touchdowns (seven) and finished with 679 yards, often becoming Perkins’s preferred target amid protection breakdowns.
The offense in general will be overhauled with the departure of many significant contributors, not the least of which was Perkins, who set the school record for total offense and directed the Cavaliers to their first appearance in the Orange Bowl.
Virginia (9-5, 6-2) also won the ACC Coastal Division for the first time after going 2-10 during its first season under Coach Bronco Mendenhall in 2016.
“Brennan Armstrong is as crafty as they come,” said Cavaliers linebacker Charles Snowden (St. Albans). “He knows who he is. He’s obviously not as explosive as [Perkins], but he knows that, and he’s okay with that. He’s still a gifted runner, gifted thrower. He’s shown great leadership qualities thus far.”
Armstrong has attempted 25 passes at Virginia, with 20 coming last season, after appearing in four games as a freshman in 2018, when an NCAA rules change permitted those who played a maximum of four games to remain eligible for a redshirt season.
Still, even with the dearth of in-game experience, Armstrong has cultivated respect from teammates, they said, through his diligence on the practice field and in film study in the quarterbacks room, where he picked up countless tips from Perkins.
“Everything just comes natural for him,” Perkins said of Armstrong. “Even without spring ball, I think he’ll be super prepared and ready to take the field. His feel for the game, he has the best feel I’ve seen in a while. He just fills areas and fills spaces so well that he’ll throw a ball, and it’s like, ‘How’d he do that?’ ”
But while Armstrong (6-foot-2, 220 pounds) is comparable physically to Perkins (6-3, 215) and also can be a threat as a runner, their individual styles, according to Armstrong, aren’t exactly in line.
Perkins frequently made defenders look foolish with his ability to elude pressure in the backfield and break away from linebackers once beyond the line of scrimmage.
Armstrong, on the other hand, possesses qualities more in line with the likes of Taysom Hill, a rugged, dual-threat quarterback who played for Mendenhall at Brigham Young.
Hill since has become a valuable and versatile member of the New Orleans Saints, playing quarterback in spots behind Drew Brees and contributing at other positions.
“He’s just a player that seems to win and make players around him better,” Mendenhall said of Armstrong. “But there’s also an edge to his personality where I think the team will take on a little bit more of a physical presence.
“Maybe a combative presence and maybe a little more edgier or competitive presence as many teams do in relation to their quarterback.”