UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
October 9, 2017
DraftScripts. Unedited Copy
BRONCO MENDENHALL: -- any momentum can be extinguished, and there is so much emotional investment put into each week. And one game or one win or one loss doesn't determine the outcome of a season, but yet the teams that are able to focus on the next game, cliche as it is, like it's the only game, have the best chance.
So to have players that have been through maybe a strong start and a rocky finish maybe will add an extra sense of urgency and guardianship over the program and give us our best chance.
Q. Jack English had to sit out the first game. Were you curious how he would respond to the suspension and has he responded to it?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: Yeah, I think anytime there is accountability for behavior there is all different kinds of reactions and it can run an entire spectrum. What I like to do and what I believe is appropriate is provide a clear pathway back and that's usually not just time, it's a number of check marks and tasks and things that have to be completed to qualify to rejoin the team, but that's just the beginning. What I like at that point is to create new habits, and so then on a weekly basis, there are benchmarks that have to be met. Otherwise he's not eligible to play or a player is not eligible to play any given week unless the plan and the benchmarks are met.
So it doesn't surprise me how Jack is playing and he's playing well because he's doing the things he's supposed to do to play. And I think that provides a sense of focus and a sense of urgency in keeping, um, the right habits in front of him that will give not only him his best clans to play but our team. I think he's playing well to this not point.
Q. Bronco, you guys have been incredibly efficient on third down. Is that something that was a point of emphasis in the off-soap and coming into the campaign? How do you accomplish that?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: Yeah, it's been a huge point of emphasis from the minute we arrived at UVA and it's taken a while to manifest and a while to show and time to start to come to fruition. Of but it's something we think third down certainly ties to momentum. We certainly think it's tied ton points. We think it's tied to time of possession and it's tied to controlling outcome. Third down is really uniquely tied to first down and we've played a lot of football this spring and fall camp with a really unique scoring system that was helping us emphasize what we think we needed to improve from a year ago but also what would help us this year.
To this point I think it's starting to show.
Q. Given the way North Carolina's season has gone, what concerns you about this game?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: Oh, they're a capable team. It's still so early. It's early for rankings, it's early for records, it's early for anything. I think if you take maybe their game against Duke and our game against Duke they were very similar. North Carolina was driving to take the lead, and then Duke intercepted and ran it back for a touchdown and that was in the fourth quarter and the game was very even, it was highly contested and I think fairly matched. So if you look at our game which was very similar to that, this isn't a matter of capability. They've played good teams. They're relatively young at some of the spots, have had some injuries, but none of that means they're less capable.
Again, when you look for markers and metrics you look for common opponents and the common opponent that we have the games were very similar so I think that's probably the best benchmark to this point.
Q. On the two-deep you have Chris Moore and Juan Thornhill as your two Sam linebackers. Are either or any of the young guys getting to a point where they could play extensively at that position, or is that still --
BRONCO MENDENHALL: Not yet. We probably ought to list it as "sam" in small letters rather than capital. We've just innovated and putting the best 11 players on the field and designing concepts to make the most of that. Juan is starting at corner as well so that also reflects depth, or lack thereof, but a lot of teams have that circumstance as well. So we're doing the best we can to manage our existing roster, personnel, and really one play that can play one, two or three spots is a great back-up for us right now.
The chance for a true two deep is not really realistic in our program at this point. So most positions have a single player that can play both or multiple spots, which is necessary.
Q. Bronco, you might have answered this when Chris asked you about Bryce Hall, but Chris Peace, you point to him a lot as the best practice guy you have on the team, kinda sets that tone. What's it is difference in that translating on to the field this year?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: The research on performance is really clear. Repetition has a lot to do with performance. The number of repetitions, certainly. However, that actually can hurt performance as well if the repetition isn't at the right level in terms of concentration and intensity. So Bryce, who we talked about earlier and Chris Peace and it's becoming more common of our entire program, we're putting in the quality of repetitions, which is the number, or the quantity of repetition, which is the number but also our team is learning the quality that is necessary to have those repetitions start to reform and replace existing habits.
When you do that enough and when you practice hard enough and long enough but also intently enough, that usually starts to translate on to improved player performance and it usually starts to hold more in the chaotic circumstances and the really stressful moments of the game. It's just beginning.
Q. With Chris Moore, this was a guy that you didn't necessarily know that you were going to have to depend on this year, but at what point did you have a sense that he could handle some of the things you are asking him to do in terms of that versatility you were just referencing?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: Chris struggled in spring practice so we were encouraged from what we saw last fall as a first year and anticipated being very impressed in the spring, which we weren't. He did not play well in the spring and did not perform well. That was the feedback he received at the end of spring practice. Through the summer, there were players that, when I would see them, show up for work and they were up on the second floor, they would be talking positively about different guys they liked at workouts, and Chris's name started to come up, but really in fall camp we just saw he was outplaying a lot of our defensive roster.
He was doing it really consistently and he was doing it at multiple positions. So really it was fall camp where we started to believe that he was going to continue and maybe pick up from where he had left off at the end of his first year fall, not the spring. So it took a while for him to connect that. He missed some time in between in terms of focus and urgency and preparation, but to his credit, he took the feedback really well, listened and then applied what our expectations were from him and, man, he's doing a really nice job for us now.
Q. This team, this program hasn't general been a good road team for the last several years and obviously you won a lopsided game at Boise. What did that do for your team's confidence in going on the road?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: Well, I'm not sure. We didn't make, um, anymore of the road game than we needed to at Boise and leaving early and whatever their record was.
I think that's what was swirling around and they get plenty of that. I just -- my approach and our approach as a team, it's just the same game, a different location. I'm not a believer in making more of something, regardless of history than needs to be and I like all the focus to be on our current preparation, our current assignments, our current application of what we're being taught, man, and there is just not much more room for anything else to occupy their mind.
We think all that is is interference. Anything that's interference doesn't help us play well. We do our best to present as coaches and as a program, yeah, it's a different state and it's a different stadium, but I mean, come on what else really could impact this? I don't like the idea of -- we have a saying that we think there are two types of people, those that act and those that are acted upon. Wherever you go you can act your way into playing well rather than just waiting for someone to determine outcome.
Q. Heading into game six you have three true freshmen offensive linemen who have their numbers. At this point of the season, if guys stay healthy would you prefer not to play Chris and Tyler and Ryan?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: I would prefer that, but that really is, man, the roster changes week-to-week and it's happening all across the country. That would be the ideal at this point but then, again, that doesn't mean those kids are automatically redshirted or gifted this extra year, and they have a lot of work to do to continue to demonstrate the competencies and commitment necessary to possibly get an extra year, and this is just the beginning.
I would prefer not to, but what I have learned is as soon as the word "redshirt" comes out or as soon as we're not going to play you this year, you say those words, motivation drops, performance drops, commitment drops, commitment to team drops, and none of that's healthy for not only their performance or the team, so we just don't do it like that.
Q. Coach, on Saturday after the game you touched on the new be standard thing being player driven. Was there a point over your time here that you started noticing players taking more ownership of it themselves or has that been a this season thing?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: I can't point to a single event or a single day. I remember the first time it was mentioned by a player and that was Chris Peace talking in front of the team during fall camp. But, man, that message has been pretty consistent and the expectations have been pretty consistent from day one of our staff's arrival. That wasn't branded, it wasn't named, it's just everything we think how you do one thing is how you do everything and eventually that shows. Maybe it just took enough volume of times hearing it or living it before it became theirs and I think that involvement equals ownership and, man, there is no great team that can be coach-driven only and be sustainable.
It's great to have upperclassmen or older players recognize that and now it's coming from them, not me, which is -- that's a lot more powerful.
Q. Bronco, you keep reminding us that it's still early in this process. From your perspective what is maybe that next step, that next phase of this process?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: Oh, man, game six is probably the next phase, the next step and then game seven and then game eight, and however this season turns out, then possibly adding not consistency again. Then when that one plays out, probably adding not consistency again. That's when programs become established science not only doing it one week or one game but multiple weeks and then regardless of home or away and as different circumstances arise, the team looks and performs similarly regardless and when that starts happening day-to-day but week-to-week, eventually that becomes year-to-year, and that's when -- the best programs, that's what they do. We're a long ways from that, but we are showing progress.
Q. Can you assess your pass rush?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: I wasn't especially happy with our pass rush on Saturday for the amount of times that we had pressure called and one-on-one mash-ups, versus the times where we knew the ball was going to be) match) going to be thrown and we're still playing on third down. But affecting the quarterback, I wasn't happy and satisfied with the amount of plays we affected him versus the calls that we had and that message is something the players have heard from their position coaches, will hear from me, and we played very well on first and second down and we still played well on third down but I wanted us to be even more disruptive than we were, so, yeah, I'm not satisfied yet with how that looks.
Q. After the game, your players went over to the student section. I'm trying to remember whether that's something they did last year. Was it spur of the moment? What did you think about that?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: I thought it was really cool. I did not advise them to do that, however, I think it's completely appropriate. I did ask our team after the Boise win to go to our fans in the stands that came and made that trip and so possibly they just saw that as something that was appropriate, was needed, was wanted from both sides and I think spontaneously was the phrase used. That just happened but I think the seeds were probably planned at Boise and I think it's -- if we're really going to have an amazing program here, it will take a stadium of amazingly supportive fans as well and I think our team is starting to realize that as well.
Q. As a head coach until last year you had never -- or this year had never had to go out recruiting after a losing season. How much difference does this winning make with recruits in terms of giving you and your staff and your program credibility?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: Oh, I mean, I would just love to right away say it's everything. If it's not, it's just right under that. Everyone likes a winner and when you have a world-class edition in addition to winning football, in a really cool community, then it becomes a whole different commentary. Many of the players that came for 2017's class were coming based on the history and the record of myself and our staff and just believed it would -- it certainly would happen here. Our first year I think all that showed was for those that stayed committed was they didn't waiver but there were others on the outside that were wondering, okay, will this really work and how long will it take and do I want to be a part of that this early? All that's happening now in the second year to have the start that we've had, it's just linking back to certainly what coaches have been saying to the team, it's not a matter of if but when, and the "when" might be sooner than what it looked like a year ago.
So those that came up to the line that were peeking over at what UV might look like are now jogging up to the line with the more energy and excitement as to possibly joining us, and that's been increasingly so the last three weeks, I would say.
Q. Every time you are asked about the past or the future you kind of revert to living in the moment. How do you get your 21-year-old players to abide by that philosophy?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: I think it's work load. If you work players to the point where they're so tired that they can't survive it without giving everything they have to that moment and then if they don't do it to standards they have to keep doing it until they do, eventually by the time they leave the practice field on Tuesday they're back to reset. It's a pretty simple formula, but it's one that I like and I think it sends the right message, that if anything the capacity has to increase, and there is X amount of work that has to be done at a very specific standard and if it's not we stay until it is. That usually brings everyone right back to, oh, it's a new week. It's as if we hadn't played before. There's a lot of people that say you're only as good as your last performance, and in the world that I live in, it's real, just the way people say hello.
Q. It seemed first couple years we dealt with Quin he kept to himself. He seems much more outgoing and when you look at him on the field he's pumping up the fans and whatever. What have you seen from him, from a personality perspective?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: I just love empowering young people that have earned the right to have increased roles. One of my passions is developing leaders. Regardless of age. That can't happen without delegation and it can't happen without being responsible to talk to the team before, it might be before the game, and I do very little of that as a coach. The closer we get to the game the less that I speak. The farther away, I do quite a bit of talking on Tuesday and quite a bit on Wednesday in team settings, less on Thursday, hardly any on Friday and very little on Saturday. The players are just the opposite. I'm asking them and putting them in a position to take more and more ownership the closer we get and in building up to the game because they are the ones playing and they have to be the ones making the real decisions, real-time decisions out there, especially Quin and Micah's spot, and I think as he's earned the chance to have that responsibility, I think it's just helping him become a more effective leader and spokesperson but also player for our program.
Ben Hogg was hurt in practice, noncontact injury and just planted funny. He is eligible for an additional year or two, you will have to check with Kelly with that. Nothing has come easy for Ben. He's resilient, he's tough, he will bounce back, and we've already had that discussion, so this isn't the last you've seen of him.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, everybody.
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