They hadn’t met until one was hired to replace the other.
But since Virginia officially introduced Tony Elliott as the next football coach on December 13, outgoing Cavaliers chief Bronco Mendenhall has provided superb access for Elliott to better understand the status of the program as he prepares. to take the reins of Mendenhall.
Elliott attended practices and meetings – in an observatory role – earlier this week. UVa is preparing for their Fenway Bowl game against SMU, which is scheduled for Wednesday at 11 a.m. in Boston.
The week before, Elliott watched the Cavaliers’ conditioning workouts.
“Most of this is rare,” said Mendenhall, who announced on December 2 that he would be stepping down after the bowl game, said Wednesday, “but I don’t know why that must be the case. I don’t know why It cannot be a collaboration to help a program continue to be, for the benefit of the people who are here and the institution. And that is my intention. It has been really valuable and I am grateful for this opportunity.
The couple also worked together during the first signing period, and Mendenhall has said he enjoys getting to know his successor.
Of course, Mendenhall and Elliott, Clemson’s former offensive coordinator, had practiced against each other when the Cavaliers and Tigers faced off in 2019 and 2020. But outside of those encounters and planning of the match for these competitions, they didn’t know much about each other.
That changed quickly, however, according to Mendenhall.
The sixth-year UVa coach said he and Elliott, soon to be head coach for the first time, have met for an hour or two almost every morning since last week.
“It’s very unique,” Elliott said of the transition in his introductory press conference, “and it gives me time to make sure I have a really good feel for the pitch and that I understand where the program is under the direction of coach Mendenhall and the direction we need to go.
UVa players believe Elliott’s presence and his union with Mendenhall is a positive for everyone involved as well.
“It’s nice to see [Elliott] in team meetings and team settings, ”Cavs running back Wayne Taulapapa said.
Senior defensive end Mandy Alonso said: “[Elliott] usually walks around and looks at everyone and probably takes notes. … He attended our meetings and training and saw how we do things here and what needs to be improved.
Junior quarterback Brennan Armstrong said he was fortunate enough to visit Elliott and learn more about what Elliott plans for UVa as he gets to know the school, the team and players with more details daily.
“We’ve had a few meetings already,” Armstrong said. “Obviously we had the team meeting and I just sat down with him and told him about the offense and what it was going to lead to. He has the credentials. He’s been there and done that, and he’s coached the best of the best. He knows what a championship team looks like and I think he’s perfect for us. I think he’s kind of what this next step for the program needs, so I can’t wait to see where he takes it.
Elliott has reached the college football playoffs six times in a row and won two national championships while on staff at Clemson.
“I’m so impressed,” Mendenhall said of Elliott. “We will be friends. Brilliant, articulate, thoughtful, substantial, successful. Captivating story, father of a family. It’s good that there is another addition to college football head coaches that impresses me. It was quick.
Elliott, a former engineer, said he noticed how smart Mendenhall was too.
“Oh my God, amazing,” Elliott said with a smile. “Unbelievable. He encouraged me. I have to dust off a few books and start reading. But that’s just a big compliment to him. I’m very grateful for his willingness to help me with this transition.