QB Perkins draws raves as Virginia begins spring practice

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall believes in some respects the Cavaliers are back to square one in the rebuilding of their program.
That’s largely because they will be breaking in a new transfer quarterback and looking to replace their top middle linebacker and safety, which also means replacing the three captains off last year’s 6-7 team.
There is, however, one difference, and it’s one Mendenhall labeled “huge.”
The difference is junior college quarterback Bryce Perkins, who is already in school, has gone through winter conditioning, player-led workouts and is taking part in spring practice.
“He’s dynamic. He’s fast. He’s athletic,” the third-year coach said after seeing Perkins in person for the first time with a ball in his hands. “He’s dynamic and it does not seem like the game or the pace is too fast for him.”
Perkins, who spent two years at Arizona State and then led Arizona Western Community College to the NJCAA national championship game last season, took snaps as the No. 1 quarterback when Virginia opened spring practice Tuesday.
“Going out there today, it felt good just leading the guys, taking first-team reps. They all weren’t good. There’s tons to improve on,” Perkins said, before adding that he enjoyed “going out there, having fun, playing around.”
At one point, when Perkins made a play, “one of the players said, ‘That’s what we’ve been waiting to see right there,'” Perkins said. “They were really keying in to see what I’m about and hopefully I showed them today.”
The highlight was a 70-yard touchdown pass to Joe Reed, who caught the ball despite being surrounded by three defenders.
The defensive players like what they have seen leading up to the start of practice, and they liked what they saw in practice.
“Bryce came in and immediately attacked everything. He took a leadership role as he should have,” cornerback Tim Harris, who was granted a sixth year of eligibility after getting hurt in last year’s opener, said. “Today he looked good, very quick, very fast, very explosive. He’s a big guy, he can throw. Everything you’re looking for in a quarterback. I’m excited to see him play.”
Virginia employed a drop-back, pro-style offense the last two seasons with quarterback Kurt Benkert, who was also a transfer but didn’t arrive until after spring practice.
“It’s a huge advantage for Bryce to be here, not only for spring practice, but for the offseason to be acclimated into the training, into the team, into the culture, get the conditioning, have an early shot at the install of what the system might look like and then getting the chance to play,” Mendenhall said.,. comparing Perkins’ situation to Benkert’s. “It really accelerates, I think, the growth by an entire year.”
Center Dillon Reinkensmeyer said the dual-threat quality Perkins offers — and Mendenhall favors — adds a new dimension.
“He can create a ton of problems with his feet,” Reinkensmeyer said. “He’s extremely athletic, extremely mobile, can throw the ball really well and it makes the defense have to second guess and sit back and wait and make sure they’re reading the play right because, if not, he’s taking it to the house.”
The Cavaliers made great strides in their second season under Mendenhall, finishing the regular season 6-6 and earning their first bowl berth in six years. But in the Military Bowl, they scored first, then got shellacked, 49-7, by Navy.
Mendenhall said that experience is one they will be reminded of “probably every day.”
The way he sees it, losing in such fashion provides more motivation than losing in a heartbreaker.
“It’s a game to be remembered because I think it has a chance to accelerate our program faster than what would have happened if we didn’t have that game,” the coach said.
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