More Contact For Cavaliers In Practice This Spring


"Doing hard things together" was more than just a marketing slogan for some members of the Virginia football team Thursday morning.

Players on defense were required to do some extra sled-pushing work following UVA's practice inside the Welsh Indoor Practice Facility. Linebacker C.J. Stalker explained afterward that the extra work was the result of coach Bronco Mendenhall not being happy with the players' performance in Tuesday's practice, which was closed to the media.

Mendenhall pointed to the extra work afterward as an example of the culture he's still trying to fully instill in his second spring as UVA's head coach. His first spring was spent focusing on cultural elements, like how the Cavaliers will stretch or take the field.

The focus has shifted in practice this spring -- to playing the game. As much football as the Cavaliers can squeeze into each practice. After opening Thursday with some position work, the team spent much of the morning in full-team 11-on-11 drills, with full pads and full contact.

"Last spring compared to this spring, and then obviously going through the transition from the season, he sees what we need as far as a playing standpoint, and what we need to get better. And that's what he sees at this point," Stalker said. "We need more experience playing football."

After practice, Mendenhall said his team is in "development mode" this spring. In his opinion, the best way to accelerate that development is by playing and hitting as much as possible -- even if that means risking injury with a roster that lacks depth.

"Once it's 11-on-11, it isn't anything other than play football. So I don't have any parameters on them other than don't hit the quarterback. And they manage that well," Mendenhall said. "But our team needs to play ball. It needs to play a lot of football in a lot of different situations, and get a lot of players developed at a different level they are now."

It's an approach Mendenhall's players are on board with.

"I like it a lot, because last year it was kind of we were just in shells, kind of like 'thud' tempo. Now we're actually really playing football," said running back Jordan Ellis. "You really can see who can tackle on defense, who can break tackles on offense."

Fellow running back Daniel Hamm said the added contact this spring should benefit the Cavaliers when the season kicks off next September.

"You're definitely ready to take a hit. You're ready to give a hit," Hamm said. "You can jump right in. You don't have to stick your toe in the water."

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