CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WFXR) — For the Virginia Cavaliers, practice was a return to business as usual on Friday evening. As per tradition in the Bronco Mendenhall era, the players began preparations for the upcoming wearing number-less jerseys, with the idea that jersey numbers are earned, not given.
But for Mendenhall, it’s anything but normal. The fourth-year UVA head coach opened fall camp just days after his father, Paul, passed away at the age of 88.
“The number of calls and texts. I returned today to I think it was seven different cards that every player had signed,” Mendenhall said after practice. “I flew in just right before our team meeting today about an hour ahead of time. My healing will come through my team.”
The first practice of the season was originally scheduled to take place Friday morning. Instead, the players took the field at 6:00 in the evening, less than 36 hours after Paul Mendenhall’s funeral in Utah.
Virginia gears up for a year with higher expectations than previous seasons.
“I think we’re holding ourselves to a higher standard this year,” UVa senior defensive tackle Eli Hanback said. “Each year with coach Mendenhall we’ve progressed and gotten better and better and this year we expect to do better than we did last year.”
The Cavaliers look to build on a season that saw eight wins including a Belk Bowl victory, marking the most wins for the program since 2011. The media has picked UVA to win the ACC Coastal Division, but the players aren’t buying into the idea of being the frontrunners.
“We still got to go out there in our first game and play,” Virginia senior quarterback Bryce Perkins said. “And go every game after that and keep playing. It’s nice but at the end of the day if we don’t go and compete, it doesn’t matter what everyone else thinks.”
Perkins acknowledged that last year, UVA was on the outside looking in and now everyone’s looking at Virginia.
“We’re not satisfied.”