Welcome to our 2020 Football Season Preview. To view our preview table of contents and read already-completed pieces, click here or on the Series button above.
Virginia had its most successful season in ages in gigantic part because it had its most successful signal caller in ages in Bryce Perkins. For two years Perkins gave ACC defensive coordinators nightmares, able to pick apart defenses both with his legs and with his arm, and racking up W’s in the process. His graduation leaves some all-ACC-sized shoes to fill, but QB coach Jason Beck’s got some intriguing options to work with.
Jason Beck: VirginiaSports.com Bio
Bryce Perkins – The 2nd Team all-ACC signal caller is off with the LA Rams now after helming the Hoos for every game the last two years, last season throwing for 3530 yards and 22 touchdowns and rushing for 769 yards and another 11 scores. I could easily turn this piece into a retrospective of all of his career accomplishments, but we’ll try to keep this focused on the future.
RJ Harvey – The true freshman was dismissed from the team over the winter. He wasn’t projected to be a candidate to start this year, but at one point was in contention for the backup spot.
Luke Wentz – The RS Freshman was moved from QB to WR during his redshirt year last year, and projects to stay there going forward.
Brennan Armstrong – Sophomore (R) – 6’2″ 215 lb – This is the season that Brennan Armstrong has been looking forward to for years now. He was the 2nd-highest-rated commitment from the 2018 recruiting class, checking in as a Top 20 dual-threat QB nationally. The buzz has built for him as the team’s “quarterback of the future” as he interned for two years behind Bryce Perkins, showing bright flashes of potential. For his career, he’s 17 of 25 (68%) for 258 passing yards and 2 TDs, chipping in another 93 yards on the ground. He’s never started a game, and being that Perkins was an ironman, has never had more than garbage time and the occasional series of minor injury relief, so obviously there’s some question marks of what he’ll do with the starting job. But for a rising 3rd year who’s been stuck behind an all-ACC starter, Brennan inspires a certain amount of optimism.
Queued up here is Brennan’s mop-up appearance vs Liberty where he ran for a first down then threw a long TD strike to Dontayvion Wicks:
Lindell Stone – Junior (R) – 6’0″ 240 lb – The upperclassman, who threw only two passes last year in garbage time at the end of the Duke win, and who didn’t see the field in 2018, is back for his 4th year. At this stage, the Charlottesville native is more an extension of coach Beck on the sideline, as you’ll often see him on game days with a headset on and clipboard in hand actively involved in the game plan execution. He’s highly unlikely to see the field again this year outside of mop-up duty, but that doesn’t mean he’s not an invaluable asset to the staff, having been absorbing Beck’s wisdom and playbook since he arrived on Grounds in 2017, possibly preparing for a future as a GA or coach before long.
Keytaon Thompson – Junior (R) – 6’4″” 215 lb – The most exciting news in the QB room this offseason was the May pledge of Mississsippi State transfer QB Keytaon Thompson. A victim in Starkville of a coaching staff change, Thompson was a consensus 4-star prospect in the 2017 high school class who showed promise in his sporadic opportunities under center for the Bulldogs, even starting in the 2017 TaxSlayer Bowl as a true freshmen, accounting for over 270 yards of total offense and 3 TD in the 31-27 win over Louisville. He’s a true dual threat guy, just as likely to punish a defense with a run as a pass, and in his career game time at Miss State totaled 846 passing yards, 8 passing TDs, 672 rushing yards, and 10 rushing TDs. The best news, he’s immediately eligible with two years of eligibility remaining! Being new to the team, he likely kicks off his career behind Brennan Armstrong due to playbook familiarity and receiver chemistry. But if he ever does wind up in the starting gig, whether by supplanting Armstrong due to performance or just if Brennan gets dinged up, Hoo fans should rest assured he’s got all the talent and even some of the experience required to perform immediately.
Iraken “Ira” Armstead – Freshman – 6’3″ 210 lb – The lone QB commit in the 2020 freshman class, the South Bend, IN native is a consensus 3-star recruit who pledged to UVA last June while on an official visit to Grounds. He’s got the measurables and athleticism but admittedly is going to need a couple years to work on his passing, and ideally will spend this season redshirting and developing.
Brennan Armstong – Time to see if the Red Rocket can live up to the hype. He was a solidly-rated 3-star coming out of high school and has had two seasons under Beck’s tutlage. Beck, mind you, quickly turned both Kurt Benkert and Bryce Perkins into record-setting QBs at UVA, each of whom he got without the benefit of grooming them since straight out of high school. There are no guarantees in life, but there’s buzz around the locker room for Armstrong for a reason, seeing what he can do with an opportunity to run with the 1st team. If there’s any reason to temper expectations, recall he didn’t get a spring practice this year, so he may have some extra rust coming out of this offseason.
Keytaon Thompson – Bronco wanted to go into this season with at least two quarterbacks he could trust, and he got that with Thompson’s transfer. Stone is more coach than realistic depth chart option, and Armstead is just too young. But in Keytaon, the coaches have a player who, under certain circumstances, not only seize the starting job but win a lot of games under center. He was recruited to UVA, not with starting guarantees, but with a promise to be treated fairly with a shot to grab the starting gig if he can play his way into it, and he’s already proven he can play and win at the SEC level.
A Stab at the Opening Day Depth Chart
Last year was a Grade A scenario, returning a proven quantity in Bryce Perkins. Unfortunately, stars must graduate eventually, and their understudies given a chance to take over. That means, as UVA was in 2018 and 2016, we enter the new season with question marks about our new quarterback. But for a scenario rife with uncertainty, there’s still reason for guarded optimism, as UVA is lucky to have two high-ceiling options to battle it out, giving us a spirited competition in summer camp and a security blanket in case of injury to either player. We’ll still have to wait until the games are played to see whether Brennan Armstrong is ready to face elite starting defenses (vs worn out 2nd stringers he saw running up the score vs Liberty and W&M), or whether Thompson can pick up the playbook fast enough and develop enough chemistry with his new OL and wideouts, for either one to be a top-half ACC quarterback this year. But given Beck’s track record of getting unheralded, unknown young QBs up to speed fast enough to win ball games, I won’t blame you if you want to get your hopes up with this crew.