FOOTBALL – ACC Kickoff Press Conferences

FOOTBALL – ACC Kickoff Press Conferences
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Fellows, we’ve got
microphones in the room. We will pass them around. As a reminder for
those in the room, please identify yourselves and
the agencies that you’re with. And we will get started. So first question from the room. Bob Holliday, our good
friend to your left, Olamide will take the question. Pronouncing your
first name for me. Olamide. Olamide. Bob Holliday, WRL.com, Olimade. With Benkert having graduated,
you have a new quarterback. How important is it for you
to be even more playmaker running and catching
a football to take some pressure off this QB? It’s important for
me because I’ve been in the system
for two years now. And just to make the transition
easy for our new quarterback, Bryce. Just to make plays any
way I can, whether it be in the backfield or out at
receiver, or inside receiver at slot. So I have a lot on
my shoulders and I’m ready to take that load. Olamide, right here
to my left, first row. Dan Tortora, Wake Up CallDT.com. Olamide, what you
can say about Bryce? I know you brought up Bryce
Perkins, your new quarterback. How much is this offense– or is it more exciting for you? How different is it
knowing that he’s a different style of
quarterback and he provides that dual threat for you? It’s different for me
because it forces the defense to play a lot more man to stop
the option that the quarterback has to run the ball. So it’s just a lot
of one on ones for me and it gives me a lot more out
opportunities out at receiver. Olamide, to your
left, second row. Doug Doughty from
the “Roanoke Times.” Talk about how your role has
evolved over your career. Did you come in as the kind of
all purpose guy you are now? Sort of, but not really. Came in as a running
back, switched to receiver my
first year and then just evolved into more of
a guy that can do it all. I have background at running
back, background at receiver, and it’s just gotten
to the point where I need to develop both as far as
a running back and a receiver. And also the leadership. Throughout the years, I’ve
kind of been a quiet guy, but this year
especially I have to be more vocal because
the team needs me to talk and be able to uplift
and motivate my teammates. Olamide, just over my right
shoulder in the white shirt. Olamide, Paul Woody from the
“Times Dispatch” in Richmond. It’s difficult to argue with the
numbers you put up last year. What do you think
you need to do, or how do you improve
on those numbers? Do you want to do more big
plays, be more explosive? That type of thing. So that’s something
I looked at right after the season ended with our
receiver coach, coach Hagans. What can I do to get better? And one thing that
we really emphasized was yards after the catch. I can improve on that. And I’m not taking
any catch for granted. I had a lot of drops
last year, a lot of missed opportunities to even
have a bigger, better season. So really just taking
advantage of every opportunity that I have. All right, Olamide we’re
going to go to the cameras. Second row, he’s got
his hand up in the air. Olamide, Andrew
McCormack from WFXR. Last year, some would call
it your breakout season, you made second-team All-ACC. Going into your
senior season, what are some of your big
goals for this year? Personally, I want
to be first team All-ACC and an All-American. And I feel like I’ve been
putting in the work to do that. And as a team, we have our
goals to beat Virginia Tech and to not only go to a ballgame
this year, but win one as well. Olamide, right
here on the aisle. Frank Maloney, “Who’s
Talking,” Fox Sports 910. Last season, you had a huge
game against Boise State. What was different
about that game? You set some NCAA records, some
school records, and certainly career records in that game. And carrying that
forward, how does that help you for this season? Just knowing what I’m capable of
doing and just being consistent and always playing at
that level no matter what adversity– whether
it be internal or external. Just always being able to
perform at a very high level because my teammates need that. Olamide, right back here. Olamide, just what
you can say about life under Bronco Mendenhall,
what he’s been to this team. You’ve obviously
seen this team go through some strife and
some adversity all the way to get to six wins and
a bowl game last year. Just what he’s done
to change the culture, change the climate
for you at Virginia. Really just– I mean,
when he first got here, he just got rid
of a lot of people just by holding the
standard up really high and other people just
couldn’t uphold that standard or they just chose not to. So just getting
rid of those people was huge for us,
because now we know who’s really in it, who
really wants to work, and just building upon that. And just trying to do better
and get better each day. Olamide, from right
here at the podium. Last year, you win five
of your first six games and then drop six
of your last seven. How do you process that
over the offseason? So one thing I was
really thinking about was just through adversity
or accomplishment, we have to be the same. We can’t be– just
because we’re doing well– we were 5-1 at one
point– we can’t let off the brakes or the gas. We have to keep pushing
and keep striving to find a way to get better. And I feel like when we get
to that point in the year, we got complacent. And you can see it in our play,
especially in the following week against Boston College. So just through
accomplishment and adversity, we need to push through
and still hold ourselves to a high standard. So we’re getting ready to bring
up your teammate Chris Peace. What is it like practicing
against the defense that he’s on? It prepares you for
every circumstance. The defense does a lot
of different things and gives us a lot
of different looks. And when we’re in the game,
it’s kind of simplified. And it’s like, OK, we’ve seen– we go against a defense
that’s way more complex or a defense that’s
very aggressive. And it just prepares us for the
game and it’s really helpful. Outstanding, so
we’ll switch places. Chris, if you want
to come on up. And we’ll get Chris
situated at the podium. And, Chris, we’ll go to your
right here in the second row. Bob Holliday, WRL.com. Chris, you only lost
players, eight guy’s return. And then you have a
lot more depth now, but the guys you
have to replace are among the greatest in Virginia
history, a couple of them. How do you replace
their presence? Those three guys, they’re
pretty good players. They taught a lot. We’ve definitely grown off them. But now it’s a matter of
everybody stepping in now. Guys like Joey Blount,
Brenton Nelson, Chris Moore back there along with Juan. Those guys just pick
up where he left off– I mean, Quinn. Micah, me, J-Mac, we
have to step in and fill in a bigger role this year. And then guys on the d-line– Manny, Bernie, Eli all just
have to step in one more notch. Chris, to your left, second row. Doug Doughty from
the “Roanoke Times.” When you were invited
to come to this affair, what did it mean to you? You haven’t really– you’ve
kind of been in the shadows at times. Does it signal anything to
you as far as leadership? Yeah, you could say that. Just a bigger leadership
role this year, and just an honor coach
Mendenhall and the university picked me to come and
represent the school this year. It’s to your right, third row. Chris, Adam Powell,
Womack Publishing. You guys kind of took
that first step last year, got to a ballgame and kind
of found some success. What’s it going to take to
kind of go to that next level? Compete for an ACC
coastal and go further? Just pick up on all
cylinders this year. We have to get stronger,
bigger, faster again this year. A big goal this year
is not only to return, we have to actually
win the bowl game now. Chris, last year you led
the linebackers in the ACC with the most sacks– 7.5. What is it about you that
allows you to be that explosive? I think the play calling
definitely helps. Coach Mendenhall is pretty
aggressive with the play calling, that allows me to
actually get more chances to go after the quarterback. So that’s a big credit
to the play calling and the guys around me. The d-line, they
help make pressures, help the quarterback
step up into me. So it all just clicks together. Not that you’re not excited
during the course of the game. But when the play comes in
and you hear that it’s really focusing on your
side of the ball, does that amp you up even
further for that one play? Yeah, gets you a little bit more
pumped, a little bit more edge on you. Other questions for Chris? Chris, we’re going to go to
the very back of the room. Camera stand, he’s got
his hand up in the air. Chris, Preston Will with
CBS 19 Charlottesville. Y’all kind of coined the
phrase, new standard, last year. But how do you all kind
of improve on that? Is it a changing
standard every season? I wouldn’t say a
complete change, just pick up where we
left off last year. I know one thing that’s really
been emphasized this year is the bowl game
and beating Tech. And part of a new
standard is now we have to beat Virginia Tech
to make the next jump forward in our program. Along with returning
to postseason play and winning as well. Chris, to my left right here. Chris, how have you
seen this team yourself? I asked Olamide about it
with Bronco Mendenhall. How has this team evolved
and changed, for you, for the better? I would say everyone is
completely bought in. I would say this year is– this year and last year I never
seen so many guys bought in. When I first came here, it was
just a lot of half and half here, half and half there,
and just a lot of people dragging their feet. I don’t think anybody on this
team is holding anyone back, or this program. Stay on the left, second row. Chris, I wanted to ask you
about Olamide and his skill set. When, for example, you’re
scrimmage one against ones, how hard is it for you guys
to get off the field when he’s out there darting
through holes, catching the ball in the backfield,
and extending plays? He’s really explosive. When he’s on the field, you
have to be aware where he is, where he lines up at. And just take it for
example, whenever you cover him, make sure you
got 10 yards back. He’s pretty fast. Chris, this is your fourth year
and this is Coach Mendenhall’s third year. What has he taught you, and what
do you think you’ve taught him? I think Coach Mendenhall
has taught me to be a better man all aside from football. He’s definitely developed
my character a lot further. And, of course,
football added on. He’s definitely made
me a better player and definitely started
working harder because of him. As far as what I’ve taught
him, I’m not really sure. Hopefully he’s learned I
just come to work every day. I don’t expect anything,
just head down, grind hard. That’s an on-the-spot question
and you pushed through that pretty well. So thanks for doing that. Anything else for
our student athletes? If not, we’ll excuse
the two of you guys. Thanks a lot. We’ll bring Coach
Mendenhall to the podium. Oh, no, they can take off. They’ve got another stop
to go to, I believe. So, coach, we’ll start
with our first question right here to my left in
the first row with Dan. Yes, before that, I’d like to
say what Chris has taught me. Please. Chris has taught me the power
of work ethic and example. I would consider Chris Peace one
of the best practice players– in terms of day in
and day out work– that I’ve seen and been
lucky enough to coach. And it’s inspiring. I never have to wonder. He just works, and he
works, and he works. As you can tell, he
doesn’t want to say a lot and I appreciate that. We have a saying– a guiding
principle in our program– less drama, more work. He is that. And I’m lucky to be at
Virginia at this time with him. And he’s been a huge part of
providing a tangible example for me to point to
to the team and say, this is what we’re looking for. Right here to my left. Bronco, I wanted to go off of
that with Chris and Olamide, but the team as a whole,
what you’ve done for them, they’ve answer that here this
morning and they’ve answered the last couple of years. Outside of Chris in general
what has Virginia done for you? I appreciate the question. I’m lucky to be at
Virginia, my wife and I talk about
that all the time. I like the chance to
make a difference. And to make a difference
it only happens if you’re allowed to make a difference. And the players have given
me that opportunity where they have taken myself and
my staff at face value, have allowed their trust
to be placed in me. I can feel that. And that’s a huge
responsibility. And so to be trusted
and relied on has been a powerful gift
that they’ve given me. And I want more than anything
for them to have success. I remember in the locker
room after Georgia Tech. It was one of the
most wild celebrations I’ve ever seen in my life. And that mattered to me. It was gratifying. Not enough in relation to
what we want to accomplish, but it was a fun payback for
me to see them that excited. And I want more
of that for them. And that they are allowing
me to coach them– because it does take that– they’re allowing me to coach
them, I’m appreciative of. And so I think just
in general what they’ve given me is this
clarity that, actually, people want to improve. They want to be better. They want to be
led and they want to be dealt with
honestly and openly. And so it’s validated
some of the beliefs that I had with just a brand
new group of young people. Coach, the camera
stand at the very back. Second row. Coach, Andrew McClung, WFXR. Your first game ever has
the UVA football coach, you played Richmond. Richmond beat y’all 37-20. This season, y’all open
up against Richmond. Does this game have a little
special meaning to you? I think it has special
meaning more in relation to it being year three rather
than the same opponent. Interesting because it’s
year three in our program– or in my tenure at UVA– but in some sense,
it’s almost year one as we think about a new
starting quarterback and now playing football
without Micah and Quinn. And so there’s kind of
year three expectations with some year one
reference points. But I like the challenge. And I like the opportunity. And I like the expectations
that our team has. And so I can’t say that we can
measure year one against year three because a common opponent
because so much has changed. But I think it would
be fair for some people to do that just by the nature
of it being the same opponent. The next two questions will come
here on the edge of the aisle, first in the green shirt,
then in the white shirt. Hi, Bronco, Harry McFarland
with the “Roanoke Times.” You heard Chris say
one of the goals he has is to beat Virginia Tech. I think it’s an obvious
goal, but maybe it wouldn’t be spoken
until November. I mean, is that
something that you’ve emphasized, that’s one
of the things you really have to do to sort of
clear that next hurdle? It’s clear. And so clarity has come over
time in my tenure at UVA. So I came not knowing
much about UVA– some about the history,
some about the expectations, and some about the rivalry. But now that I’ve been
at UVA for two years, it’s becoming clearer what
has to happen for the program to advance. And there will be
benchmarks along the way that if certain benchmarks are
met, momentum will be added, which means the
acceleration of the program will happen at a
faster rate and maybe at a more meaningful level. And certainly when you have a
rivalry game that you haven’t won in a significant
amount of time, that’s one of the things
that has to happen regardless of where you are. And so we’re open about it
moreso now that I’ve ever been, just because it’s
more clear that that has to happen for University
of Virginia’s football program. And I want that to
happen for our players. So it’s not a secret. We are open about it. We are focusing on
that as we need to. As well as the
expectation of– we expect to play postseason every
year, not just occasionally. And we expect to win. And so that’s part
of the new standard that Chris talks about is
those are expectations. Those aren’t things
that we expect randomly or occasionally. We want a program that does
those things consistently. And that’s part of the
direction we’re moving toward. Still work to do, no question. But that’s the
direction we’re moving. Paul Woody, ” Richmond
Times Dispatch.” Bronco, Olamide set a
single-season record last year with receptions at 85. He averaged 10.5
yards per reception. Is important to your
offense for him to increase that yards per catch average? He’s going to have to. So as strong as his
numbers were a year ago, they’re going to
have to be better for our team to have success. And the good news was from
what I saw in the Spring, I thought his Spring was the
best of any player on our team. And I think his preparation,
to this point in the offseason, has continued on that. But he has to be a workhorse. And knowing, as we’ve
all seen him play, he’s a dynamic player. So it can’t just be
number of touches, it has to be the yards that
happen with each touch. That has to happen for our team. So I think he’s training for it. You also heard him mention is
the team needs him to lead. The team needs him
to be more vocal. So not only is he going
to have to improve his own performance, which
was strong a year ago, he’s going to also have to– for our team to
have success, he’s going to also have to take on
the next component of caring for other people as well. Which is more of
a responsibility and takes more energy and time. And he’s doing that, and
he’s learning how to do that. The bottom line is,
he’s going to have to do that for us to have success. Second row here with Frank. Coach, Frank Maloney, “Who’s
Talking,” Fox Sports 910. I’m wondering, how
has the transition to the new athletic
director, Carla Williams, impacted your football program? Man, I’m lucky that
Carla is with us. What I was hopeful for when
a change of athletic director was being made– what I was hopeful
for and what I asked for is someone that
had a coaching background, that was an amazing
person who knew what an exceptional college
football looked like. And we got all three. We got a former
coach who also knows what exceptional football looks
like who is an amazing person. Carla asks questions
first, probing questions. She listens intently before
she acts, but when she acts, she acts decisively. And she believes that the
athletic department cannot reach its full potential without
a healthy football program. I believe the same, not
for the sake of football, but for the sake of the
whole athletic department, and I think for Charlottesville
and the Commonwealth in general. It’d be cool to have another
great program just for people to support and get behind. And Carla, after asking probing
questions, to her credit, has delivered on everything that
I’ve asked for and supported. And she supported
those initiatives in terms of building
an infrastructure that will actually allow us to at
least get to industry standard before we show what we
can do on the field. And I’m grateful. And more than anything,
I’d love for the results to reflect that in terms of
payback to her for the support that she has given
us to this point, even though it’s
early in the process. Coach, to you’re
right, third row. Coach, Adam Powell,
Womack Publishing. You lost Quinn Blanding
in the secondary, but there’s still some
playmakers in that group– Thornhill and Brenton Nelson. Could you just talk
about that group getting beyond Quinn Blanding. Our secondary a
year ago led the ACC in pass defense, which
is part of defense. Quinn was our best
tackler of that group. And so we have a
unique set of players that we can put in a variety
of combinations right now. And I’m still kind of moving
and seeing where that might fit. But there’s a great
chance that Juan Thornhill will replace Quinn, meaning
that he’ll be in that position. And then between Brenton
Nelson and Joey Blount, you’ve got another nice
set of safeties there. And then when you consider Tim
Harris coming back, with also Bryce at the other corner– not even to mention
Chris Moore– there’s potential
that unit could again be a really strong unit
for us as long as we address the tackling
totals that Quinn had. And so I like the potential, and
it’s one of the few positions currently on our team where
I see not only the quality of player, but depth. And as we’re talking
about that position, that’s more like what I
would like the majority of our positions to look like. So it’s a good point
of reference for us. Bob Holliday, WRL.com. Coach, from the cheap seats,
it would appear that you made a very large move when
you came to Virginia, leaving a program that was
very, very successful– among the nation’s
best for decades– to take over a program
that’s been less successful, and you came to an entirely
different part of the country, and a new conference. Now as you begin year three,
what’s this like for you? What what’s been the biggest
challenge or challenges? Yeah, I think you’d
have to say challenges, but to be clear, that’s
exactly what I was looking for. So I was intentional
and I wanted challenge, and I wanted change,
and I wanted growth. And, certainly, we
got all those things. Inviting 14 staff
members to come with me, we basically did Lewis
and Clark backwards and came across the country. It’s been a
galvanizing experience. I’ve learned and grown more,
maybe, in the last 2.5 years in working with Virginia
than I have over my career. And I want desperately for the
program, but more importantly for the people, to have success. I’ve become friends with
a lot of new people. I’ve become captured by
the type of young people that come to UVA. And I’m driven to
see this to fruition, meaning consistent and
successful football year-after-year at UVA. And after year one, there
was an entire recalibration that had to happen from where
I thought the program was and where it really was. I was significantly off. After the recalibration
of year one, that got us to some success
in year two, right, we’re back to postseason. There’s still
another recalibration that’s just happened after
then playing in our ballgame and seeing our current
level of preparation for what that looks like. And so now after a
second recalibration– and this might happen
multiple more times– it gives us a better
chance for year three. But I love the challenge. I love the all-encompassing
nature of what that requires, as is my family and all
of the coaches that came. It is galvanizing to take
on something difficult, but that’s what I love. I love challenging things and
that’s certainly what we have. But I love to see complete
effort and commitment in pursuit of
something like that. And the team is
starting to do that. They’re starting to
realize this is worth it. And that’s gratifying. Coach, back to your left,
second row with Doug. Doug Doughty, “Roanoke Times.” What is Bryce Perkins’ potential
and where is his leadership level right now? Yeah, that’s a great question. His leadership level– I’ll start in reverse order– Bryce’s leadership level–
what I’ve most appreciated is he came in not being
the guy but wanting to be part of the team and do
everything possible to show that he was willing to
follow rules to possibly be in the background and let his
actions talk before his words. And then over time as his
actions and his work ethic showed, and as the team
started to identify, this is going to
be our quarterback, then he appropriately, and
kind of reflecting maturity, started to then lead
in a more visible way. And he’s going to have to. Even though he’ll be
our starting quarterback for the first time,
he’s going to– what the requirement
will be is it will– for us to succeed, it will
have to be as if he’s been our starter longer than that. And he knows that. But I think his work
ethic will allow that. And then we have to design the
system and the play-calling in a manner that gives him his
best chance to do what he does well to reflect consistency. What was the first part of
the question, I’m sorry. Oh, his potential. Wow. He’s one of the strongest,
and fastest, and best athletes that I’ve coached. And so there isn’t
a play where when, if he’s running
with the football, that can’t go all the way. He can throw the
ball effectively. And I think he’s a
solid decision-maker. And so, to me,
point number three, if the decision-making maturity
increases at a faster rate or an accelerated rate– but there could be
pretty remarkable things happen in his tenure at UVA. But I think that will control
him, not the physical skills. I think the leadership
and playing ACC football and the decision-making at that
position, that will, I think, determine his potential
or the result. Coach, to keep us on the
clock, both the question and the answer, we’ll see
if we can press through it. In the back with the camera. Hi, coach, Dave Walls,
WCTY in Lynchburg. You talked earlier about the
rivalry with Virginia Tech, but you have a new
arrival that you’ll be playing for the
first time as that’s just down the road in Liberty. Not often a new FBS
team just sprouts up near your own backyard. Just touch on that rivalry,
or what could be a rivalry so close distance wise. And you’ve got a fan base in. What does that kind of
close, in-state rivalry do to perhaps
convincing NCAA recruits to come to Charlottesville? Well, I like the– first of all, the scheduling
philosophy’s pretty simple. We have four non-conference
games per year, one of which has to be a power five opponent. But the other three,
I love the idea of intriguing and regional. And that’s both, right? So Liberty is intriguing,
right, because they’re on a brand new path
in division one and an independent, which I’ve
traveled that road at Brigham Young. They’re right down the road. And so there’s
interest immediately, and intrigue, and it
makes complete sense. So when you consider
teams like that, besides the FCS opponents in our
state, besides Old Dominion– I mean, there’s a lot of options
that make a lot of sense. And I think it’s
good for the state and I think it’s good for
the players in the state. So I think it fits exactly
within a scheduling philosophy that I have for
the program at this time. And I think it’s good
for the players also. So I’m looking
forward to the game. Folks, well done, we
finished right on time. Virginia, good luck this year. Thank you.

3 thoughts on “FOOTBALL – ACC Kickoff Press Conferences

  1. UVA needs to make football its #1 priority. It needs to show the same level of commitment as Clemson, Florida State, Louisville, Miami and…..Virginia Tech. Recruit Elite Athletes, Play Technically Sound Football, and Win Baby, Win!

    Every other sport at UVA doesn't settle for mediocrity, nor should its Highest Revenue Sport. Period. No Excuses!

  2. I hope they can return to a hard to beat football team every Saturday. I loved watching them years ago when they won some they shouldn't have and hardly ever lost one they should.

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