It’s the most important position on the field. College football teams, and football teams at all levels, live and die by quarterback play.
With Kurt Benkert and Bryce Perkins providing Virginia solid play at the position the past few seasons, the Cavaliers built themselves into one of the top teams in the ACC Coastal Division. To remain a Coastal contender in future seasons, UVa needs its starting quarterback to play well.
Whenever the Cavaliers return to the field, it’ll be up to one of two players to take hold of the starting quarterback job and lead the Cavaliers to victory.
Offensive coordinator Robert Anae spoke to the media in April, saying a starter wasn’t named at that point. The starter remains a question, but Anae feels confident about whoever will lead the team when the season begins.
“Whoever that quarterback will be come when we play Georgia, I’m confident that he will be a player that represents the university, and I think our fans will really look forward to breaking in this new group,” Anae said.
Let’s take a closer look at Virginia’s quarterback room with the recent addition of Mississippi State transfer Keytaon Thompson.
The key returner in the position group is Brennan Armstrong. He served as Perkins’ backup a season ago, and he’s expected to be in contention for the starting quarterback job in 2020. Armstrong, a left-handed quarterback from Ohio, enters his third season in the program as a redshirt sophomore. He’s an accurate passer with a good understanding of what’s going on around him.
While he isn’t Perkins in terms of athletic ability, Armstrong possesses solid quickness as a runner and he’s considered a dual-threat quarterback. He won’t break off 70-yard touchdown runs like Perkins, but Armstrong can move the chains with his legs.
Lindell Stone, Jared Rayman and Luke Wentz also return.
Perkins broke records in his two seasons at UVa and is off to the NFL. Losing Perkins leaves a question mark at the most important offensive position. Can the Cavaliers find someone who can run the offense as effectively as Perkins?
A season ago, the Cavaliers could rely on Perkins to save a play when the offensive line protection broke down. What seemed like a sure loss of yardage could turn into a positive play when Perkins scrambled outside the pocket and made something out of nothing. If the Cavaliers don’t have that element in their offense, it puts pressure on every other position group offensively to perform at a higher level.
RJ Harvey entered the transfer portal and plans to attend a junior college, removing him from the quarterback equation.
Freshman Ira Armstead joins the team as an incoming freshman, but the most notable addition is Keytaon Thompson. The Mississippi State graduate transfer is immediately eligible for the Cavaliers and brings with him great size and athleticism. He’ll have two years of eligibility for UVa.
Thompson stands at 6-foot-4 and weighs about 225 pounds. He runs well and showed flashes of quality play when given time on the field in 2017 and 2018. He’s immediately going to be in the discussion to start for the Cavaliers upon his arrival in Charlottesville.
His rushing ability should excite the offensive coaching staff. His 99 career carries at Mississippi State led to 10 touchdowns. Thompson also tossed eight touchdowns to just three interceptions. He’s a big addition to UVa’s quarterback group.
“Keytaon is big, physical, fast, dynamic, an exceptional athlete,” UVa head coach Bronco Mendenhall said in a Twitter video. “To win the Coastal Division and the ACC championship, two quarterbacks are always necessary, not just one. So in addition to Brennan Armstrong, that we already love, we get a chance to now welcome Keytaon Thompson to our program. That just increases our chances to have the season we’re all hoping for.”
With Thompson in the mix, UVa fans should feel optimistic about the position group. While nobody can replace Perkins, UVa’s offensive line should improve this season, given its returning experience. Whoever takes the starting job should have a better running game along with better pass protection.
Virginia’s offense doesn’t need Armstrong or Thompson to shoulder the entire offensive load. Losing Hasise Dubois and Joe Reed hurts at wide receiver, but Terrell Jana is a reliable No. 1 receiving option. The Cavaliers’ offense has the potential to be effective.
When UVa returns to the field, the biggest question surrounding the quarterbacks is which player earns the title of starting quarterback?