Welcome back to our 2019 Football Season Preview. To view our preview table of contents and read already-completed pieces, click here or on the Series button above.
The Hoos went into the 2018 football season with a new quarterback. Kurt Benkert had graduated and signed with the NFL's Falcons, and the reins had been passed to JUCO transfer Bryce Perkins from Arizona. While the excitement within the program for Perkins' ability was evident, it was accompanied by uncertainty and a healthy dose of skepticism.
How things can change in a year.
No one. The Hoos had preseason attrition last season when several players decided not to return, in addition to Benkert's graduation, but this season, everybody returns.
Everybody. Perkins established himself in spring 2018 as a team leader with his attitude and work ethic, and cemented himself as THE team leader during the season with his productive, exciting play and his toughness and grace. He did everything you want a quarterback to do: He threw the ball well from the pocket and on the run, he ran the ball in designed plays and broken plays, he took hits, he avoided hits, and he was an inspirational leader to his teammates and the fan base. And now he's back. His two backups - both of whom were able to redshirt because they weren't needed - also return, with a pecking order in place. The backup is Brennan Armstrong, who probably would have been the starter had Perkins not committed relatively late. He proved himself a gamer in limited opportunities, doing enough to establish confidence that if he is needed, he will deliver. Lindell Stone is third and may not retain that spot with incoming freshman Robert Harvey from Florida being in the Perkins mold.
Bryce Perkins - Senior - 6'3" 215 lb - Incredibly, being the most productive quarterback in the ACC not to win a national championship and one of the best leaders in the conference was only good enough for Honorable Mention All-ACC. It was an absurd result and a slap in the face to Perkins, who was third in the conference in Passer Efficiency (0.5 behind #2 Ryan Finley), tied for second in touchdown passes (25, with Finley, behind Trevor Lawrence of Clemson, 27), 11th in rushing yardage per game, and added 9 rushing touchdowns to his 25 passing.
Not only was he productive, but Perkins was dynamic and durable. He played in all 13 of Virginia's games, even after injuring a finger that required offseason surgery and gimping an ankle. His playmaking elevated Virginia's offense from the mundane despite a questionable offensive line and pedestrian running game. He was as responsible for his team's success as any player in the country - and Virginia had a successful season with 8 wins and its first bowl win since 2005.
Brennan Armstrong - Freshman (R) - 6'2" 220 lb - After a rough start to his collegiate career in the season opener against Richmond, Armstrong proved himself to be a gamer, a Ty Jerome in football pads, in the ACC opener against Louisville with a 34-yard sprint in the second quarter, and later against Georgia Tech when he came in for the injured Perkins and tossed a 56-yard TD to Joe Reed. He also appeared in UVA's bowl win over South Carolina. Despite all that, new NCAA rules allowed him to keep his redshirt, so he will have three seasons after Bryce graduates this year. From all indications, UVA will not miss a beat.
Lindell Stone - Sophomore (R) - 6'0" 230 lb - After being the only QB to play in 2017 besides Benkert, Stone did not play at all last season, and hence comes into 2019 as a redshirt sophomore. With Armstrong having established himself firmly as the #2 QB and two promising incoming freshmen joining the fold, Stone is unlikely to appear this season. As a Mike London recruit, Stone never did figure to be a fit for coach Bronco Mendenhall and offensive coordinator Robert Anae's preferred Pass-Run Option offensive system.
Robert Harvey - Freshman - 5'8" 180 lb - The three-star recruit out of Florida is the heir apparent to heir apparent Brennan Armstrong and is perfectly designed for the offense. With his height, he is not going to be a pocket passer, but when he gets out on the edge, he can gash a defense with his throwing arm or his running legs.
Luke Wentz - Freshman - 6'3" 200 lb - Could Virginia's two freshman quarterbacks be any different in appearances? While Harvey is the short black man from traditional high school football hotbed Florida who is an obvious dual-threat QB; Wentz is a tall white guy from traditional football hotbed Germany (different football) who looks like a traditional dropback QB. But looks can be deceiving with Wentz, because he has run a 4.6 40 and was recruited by most P5 schools as an "athlete" who was asked if he would play wide receiver. Heck, even Virginia might end up using him somewhere else, but they offered him as a quarterback, and it was that opportunity that led him to choose the Cavaliers. Look for Wentz to redshirt while everybody figures it out, because he has a steep learning curve and needs to add muscle to his frame. Wentz does have possible NFL tools.
Brennan Armstrong - Armstrong is likely to get opportunities this season. From the possibility of Perkins getting injured to the much happier circumstance of blowout wins, to possible load management, to a deliberate tactical choice to use two quarterbacks, many situations are likely to arise where Armstrong gets on the field. When he does, look for him to make big plays. He has dual-threat talent and Ty Jerome's cold heart.
A Stab at the Pitt Game Depth Chart
Going into last season, the quarterback position was one of great potential and equal uncertainty. Our wildest hopes were realized (sort of a theme for UVA sports last year), and the quarterbacks led the Hoos to a winning season, ACC Coastal Division contention, and a rousing bowl win. This year, the quarterback position is one of high expectations. Bryce Perkins is a bona fide ACC POY and Heisman Trophy candidate and is expected to lead a team that has been picked by the media to earn the right to lose to Clemson. Unlike last year, when success was largely tied to the health and performance of Perkins, the Cavaliers have a backup who can be expected to keep things rolling should he go down.
Harvey and Wentz mean a QB succession plan is in place: from Perkins to Armstrong, and from Armstrong to Harvey/Wentz. It appears that the QB position is set for the next several years.