“I think it’s still debatable if the process has to start,” Mendenhall said Friday morning during an appearance on ACC Network. “I’m going to coach the team and do the very best I can, keeping them safe and keeping them well and keeping them growing and progressing through these unique and challenging times.”
Mendenhall and athletic department officials indicated they are following local, state and national guidelines in creating the safest environment for players to work out together while reducing the risk for exposure to the virus that has claimed at least 123,000 lives nationally, based on data compiled by The Washington Post.
The team also has been following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and NCAA protocols for resuming activity, including issuing print and video education to players, coaches and support staff as well as planning regular testing for the Cavaliers, who are scheduled to open the season Sept. 7 against Georgia at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Whether that game takes place remains in doubt given a surge in infections throughout the country since Memorial Day.
Florida, for instance, reported a single-day high of 8,942 new cases Friday. Four other states — Arizona, Mississippi, Missouri and Oklahoma — have hit new marks as well.
Apart from the virus, the Cavaliers’ biggest concern is addressing their quarterback situation, where the departure of record-setting Bryce Perkins left a gaping vacancy after he directed Virginia (9-5, 6-2) to its first ACC Coastal Division title and first Orange Bowl appearance last season.
“I think culturally we’re very, very strong, and that reflects four years of work,” said Mendenhall, who is entering his fifth season in Charlottesville. “The biggest question is at quarterback, but confidence is not an issue, so they’re excited and capable and believe they can compete.”
Brennan Armstrong, Perkins’s backup last season, is in line to start despite attempting only 25 passes in his college career. The sophomore left-hander played in four games in 2018, when an NCAA rule change permitted those who played a maximum of four games to remain eligible for a redshirt season, and in seven games a year ago.
Armstrong has been working out on his own and communicating with coaches and teammates via text messages and video conference calls during the pandemic, which canceled what figured to have been an especially valuable spring camp, given his dearth of in-game experience.
“Brennan Armstrong is as crafty as they come,” said senior 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.”
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