I’ve written many times about the incredible recruiting class of 2014, especially about the running backs. On ESPN’s list, Leonard Fournette was number one and as everyone knows he was a 1st round draft pick and is a star in the NFL now.
Jabrill Peppers was next and he was also a first round pick. Peppers was followed by offensive tackle Cam Robinson who was another top pick and then Myles Garrett was next and he was the top pick in the entire draft.
The 5th player on that list was a defensive tackle out of Chesapeake, Virginia that signed with the Virginia Cavaliers, Andrew Brown.
Skipping down the the 10th rated player, Quin Blanding from Virginia Beach also signed with the Cavaliers, giving them 2 out of the top 10 players and two 5 star guys which is highly unusual.
Blanding was a star safety immediately for the Cavs, leading the team in tackles in the 2014 season.
A part time player on that team was redshirt freshman linebacker from Baltimore, Maryland, Micah Kiser. In the 2015 season, Kiser became the tackle leader for the Virginia Cavalier defense and the star safety, Blanding, finished second in tackles that season. The following year was the same, with Kiser as a tackling machine followed closely by outstanding safety, Blanding.
The only problem for these guys, was the team was terrible.
Virginia finished with a 5-7 record in 2014. But, it got worse in 2015 with the Cavaliers finishing 4-8.
Of course, somebody would be fired and the Cavaliers did let go of head coach Mike London after the 2015 season. Almost shockingly, they hired Bronco Mendenhall away from Brigham Young University to lead their program.
At BYU, Mendenhall had replaced Gary Crowton who was trying to live up to the legend of Lavell Edwards. As the Cougar’s coach for 29 seasons, Edwards led them to an impressive 267-101-3 record and a mythical national championship in 1984. Edwards ran a wide open offense and is partly responsible for today’s crazy offenses.
Crowton made the mistake of becoming the very next head coach after a legend and after 4 years, the BYU Cougars canned him and hired Bronco Mendenhall.
Once he started doing well, it was mostly believed that Mendenhall would stay in Provo, Utah until he retired much like the great Lavell Edwards. After all, Bronco Mendenhall had already been at BYU for 11 seasons and had led the Cougars to 11-2 records in 3 of those years and 10-3 in 2 more.
His overall record was 99-43. With a record like that, it was assumed that Mendenhall was there to stay.
So, it came as shocking news when the Virginia Cavaliers hired him as their next coach.
Bronco Mendenhall’s first season at Virginia was much the same as past years with the Cavaliers going 2-10. The play of linebacker Micah Kiser and safety Quin Blanding was the same, but the wins just didn’t come.
A reader may have noticed that there’s been no mention of former 5 star defensive tackle recruit Andrew Brown yet. Was he a bust?
Brown was not a bust, just a slower starter. As a true freshman in 2014, Brown should have probably redshirted. He was just not ready to make the move to top tier football.
Brown played very little in 2015, as well. But, with the arrival of Bronco Mendenhall, Brown’s career was suddenly looking good. He moved out to defensive end in 2016 and he recorded 6 quarterback sacks and 13 tackles for loss. Suddenly, at defensive end, Andrew Brown was looking something like the 5 star recruit of 2014.
Brown started showing up on NFL Draft lists and people started noticing.
Now, in 2017, the three seniors are playing well and so are the Cavaliers. They’ve qualified for a bowl game already this year and have a 6-3 record. They might have a tough time with their remaining
games with struggling Louisville next. But, after that they have tough games against Miami and in-state rival Virginia Tech to finish up the regular season.
Micah Kiser is again leading the team in tackles, but again he’s followed closely by safety Quin Blanding. Andrew Brown is holding his own at defensive end.
As a recruiting geek, I’m so excited to see former 5 star recruits Quin Blanding and Andrew Brown finally on a winning team and qualifying for a bowl game. Yes, there are too many bowl games, but it’s a reward for these guys to be able to play in a bowl game.
It’s a long way from Provo, Utah to Charlottesville, Virginia, but it seems to be working out in 2017 for Bronco and his Cavalier team. Winning is fun and I am excited for them. It’s also exciting that they stayed in school through their senior seasons and are being rewarded with some success.