- Associated Press - Friday, August 19, 2016

Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall has a pretty good idea who his starting quarterback will be, but he’s not ready to make that decision public just yet.

An announcement will likely come by the middle of next week, the Cavaliers’ first-year coach said Friday, and he thinks the players have an idea already.

“I think so, just simply by the amount of repetition and how we’ve been distributing it,” he said of practice reps. He said quarterbacks coach Jason Beck and offensive coordinator Robert Anae have communicated with all three contenders on a daily basis, “so I don’t think it will be a surprise to anyone.”

The contenders are incumbent Matt Johns, who threw for 20 touchdowns with 17 interceptions last season, fellow fifth-year senior Connor Brewer and East Carolina transfer Kurt Benkert, who began preseason camp getting more reps than the other two because he was not at Virginia for spring practice.

Only the Cavaliers’ first three practices were open to the media.

Mendenhall, who replaced Mike London after last season, won 99 games in 11 seasons at BYU and took the Cougars to a bowl game in each of his 11 seasons.

The Cavaliers have not been to a bowl game since the 2011 Peach Bowl.

Mendenhall, who will serve as the defensive coordinator, said he’s not a fan of using more than one quarterback.

“I think the team, the offensive identity struggles. I also think the team identity struggles,” he said on a conference call. “That’s not something I prefer to do. I’d rather have a single starting quarterback.”

An exception might be if a team has two quarterbacks with distinctly different styles, he said, but that’s not the case at Virginia. All three are drop-back style quarterbacks, although Benkert is viewed as the most mobile and probably has the strongest arm of the three.

He and Brewer also have more familiarity with the fast-paced offense the Cavaliers will employ.

Beyond quarterback, Mendenhall said he has been impressed with the team’s stable of running backs, and pleasantly surprised at how some players have impressed enough to be considered options at wide receiver. The latter was thought to be a weak spot, he said, but when injuries sidelined Olamide Zaccheaus and Andre Levrone during camp, players like David Eldridge and Warren Craft have shown themselves to be more than capable.

Mendenhall still expects Zaccheauu and Levrone to be ready for the Sept. 3 opener against Richmond, he said.

At tailback, Taquan “Smoke” Mizzell distinguished himself last season, running for 671 yards and four touchdowns and catching 75 passes for 721 yards and four more scores. His receiving yardage was a record for an Atlantic Coast Conference running back, but he’s far from the only ball-carrying option.

“A lot of people know about Smoke, but Daniel Hamm, and Jordan Ellis and Albert Reid - those three players have really set the tone for our entire team in camp and I didn’t expect that I’d be that impressed, but I am with those three,” Mendenhall said.

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