Colin McGovern and Marvin Zanders are officially in as Virginia football transfers, and potentially two others are close behind.
National Signing Day 2017 for the Cavaliers wasn’t just about taking national letters of intent from high schools off the fax machine. McGovern, an offensive lineman and soon-to-be Notre Dame graduate, will spend his final year of eligibility in Charlottesville this fall. That much was confirmed by UVa on Wednesday.
Zanders, a Missouri grad transfer quarterback, is coming to the Cavs and will have two years of eligibility remaining. That news arrived Thursday.
Offensive linemen John Montelus (Notre Dame) and Brandon Pertile (Oklahoma State) are the other known Wahoo targets. Both will be redshirt seniors and can play immediately.
Second-year Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall has a specific purpose with these moves.
With McGovern, Montelus and Pertile, he could add an experienced trio to help a glaring need in his Cavalier rebuilding project.
“Anyone we bring as a grad transfer can help us fill an immediate need where we need someone to contribute at a high level right away,” Mendenhall said. “Ideally, it would be a starter. At the lowest level, I would like a grad transfer to be in the rotation.”
Quarterback Kurt Benkert (East Carolina) and defensive lineman Jack Powers (Arizona State) were Mendenhall’s grad transfer additions before last season. Benkert then started 10 games and threw for 2,552 yards with 21 touchdowns to 11 interceptions. Powers appeared in all 12 games — made two starts — and recorded 13 tackles with a half-sack and three pass deflections.
“If they come in and are a backup, I’ve misevaluated in terms of what I thought they were,” Mendenhall said.
If it’s playing time that’s wanted, UVa is a likely attractive program these days for offensive linemen.
The Cavs lost three starters from a 2016 unit that gave up 36 sacks. Before Wednesday, Virginia had just eight O-linemen on scholarship. They’ve since signed five high school seniors and McGovern.
“They are coming to us because they see a need,” Mendenhall said. “I mean, I’m very transparent. They are not promised anything, other than a chance to compete.”
The Zanders add differs in the sense of the dual-threat QB isn’t likely to unseat Benkert at the top of the depth chart. Rather, he fills a gap at the position that currently features a redshirt senior and three freshmen.
“We went specifically for a player that had two years because I’m looking for consistency and a program that will have a chance every year to be led well,” Mendenhall said. “And so if we had a dual-threat quarterback that has two years, then that would make more sense than a player even with one year at a position of need.”
Zanders, a 6-foot-1, 185-pounder, rushed 35 times for 198 yards and two touchdowns last season for Mizzou.
Woodberry Forest’s Lindell Stone, this publication’s reigning Central Virginia Offensive Player of the Year, is the lone QB in Virginia’s class.
Mendenhall was impressed by Stone’s eye-popping numbers — 3,380 passing yards and 38 touchdown passes as a senior — but perhaps more so by what he heard about Stone while visiting Woodberry’s foes.
“Sometimes the coach of the player at the school will tell you what you want to hear,” Mendenhall said. “It's really fun to go place to place to place and have their rival saying, ‘He might be the difference.’ So those are the words they are using and I'm not putting too much pressure on him, but that was fun to hear.”
A big miss
Virginia signed four defensive linemen, but none are nose tackles.
That’s a key absence for a program that just graduated 6-1, 300-pound Donte Wilkins and doesn’t have an immediate replacement in mind.
“We wanted one,” Mendenhall admitted. “There wasn’t a true nose that I could just crown now and say, ‘That was the nose we were looking to add to our program.’ Didn’t happen.
“We have some really tough D-linemen coming in that I really, really like. And we’ll look within our existing [roster] of who we might be able to convert to a nose. ... Yeah, I still lose sleep over [not getting a NT in this class].”
Virginia signed nose tackle Trysten Hill last February, but the 300-pound Floridian was denied admission to the school and eventually enrolled at UCF.
But here’s the kicker
While Virginia successfully signed coveted kicker/punter Brian Delaney from Chantilly, it lost Peyton Henry to Washington.
Henry, regarded to be on Delaney’s level as a kicker/punter, is now walking on with the Huskies. The Californian committed to doing the same for the Cavaliers in December.
Delaney will likely make an immediate impact with the Wahoos as Sam Hayward, the converted UVa soccer player who became the school’s No. 1 placekicker last fall, is no longer on the roster.