Familiarity is the theme as Virginia hosts William & Mary in the season opener for both teams on Saturday night in Charlottesville, Va.
Not only are both sides loaded with returning starters and veteran players, the coaching staffs for the Cavaliers of the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Tribe of the Colonial Athletic Association also share multiple connections.
Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall enters his sixth year at Virginia with a 30-32 record, including 5-5 last season. On offense, he returns eight players with 10 or more starts as well as the players who produced 82 percent of the total offense from 2020. Six players on the defensive side have made at least 20 starts.
Mendenhall’s predecessor at UVA is Mike London, who is starting his third season in charge at William & Mary. He is 6-9 overall with the Tribe, including 1-2 last spring after the pandemic wiped out the fall slate. London, who was 27-46 in six seasons with the Cavaliers (2010-15), returns all of his starters on both sides of the ball.
London’s coaching staff includes former Virginia assistant Vincent Brown and former Cavaliers players Gordon Sammis, Matt Johns, Ras-I Dowling, Keenan Carter and Darryl Blackstock.
“I think what Coach London has done at William & Mary, it makes complete sense to me,” Mendenhall said of having so many former Virginia players as coaches. “It’s the exact model that I believe in and will continue to. I love hiring from within and building from within.”
Virginia, picked to finish fifth in the ACC Coastal Division in the preseason poll, is led by quarterback Brennan Armstrong, running back Wayne Taulapapa, wide receiver Billy Kemp IV and the versatile Keytaon Thompson, who lined up at QB, RB and WR last year.
Quarterback Hollis Mathis and running back Malachi Imoh lead W&M, picked to finish 11th in the 12-team CAA.
“I feel good about the talent of this team, about the depth of this team, about seniority, about the leadership,” London said. “There are a lot of positive things coming out of the spring to the summer and going into the fall.”
Virginia is 30-6-1 in the all-time series and has won 10 of the last 11 meetings, including 52-17 in the most recent clash on Sept. 6, 2019. William & Mary’s last win in the in-state rivalry was in 2009.
–Field Level Media