Bronco on value of playing first-year Cavaliers

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- Bronco Mendenhall’s philosophy regarding playing first-year players at Virginia can be summed up in four words.

“Now is what matters,” UVA’s head football coach replied when asked about balancing immediate versus long-term concerns with the Cavaliers’ first-year players.

This is the second season for the NCAA’s new redshirt rule, which allows players to appear in up to four games without losing a potential fifth year of college eligibility. Last year, UVA chose to use eight first-year players in more than the allotted four games — meaning those players had burned a potential redshirt season.

Through five games this season, three true UVA freshmen have burned their redshirts. Defensive lineman Jowon Briggs has started all five games. Running back Mike Hollins scored a pair of touchdowns in the Cavaliers’ win against William and Mary, but he and inside linebacker Nick Jackson have seen most of their playing time on special teams.

Two other first-year players — outside linebacker Jairus Satiu and long-snapper Enzo Anthony — have appeared in four games for the 4-1 Wahoos this season. Wide receiver Dorien Goddard and defensive back Tenyeh Dixon have played in two games. In total, 14 true freshmen have appeared in at least one game for UVA.

Mendenhall says he likes the flexibility the four-game redshirt rule provides in managing the roster and working around injuries. He also believes the opportunity at playing time can impact the engagement level for a young player.

“And what I’ve learned, meaning that when a player has a role, it just seems that they thrive,” Mendenhall explained. “Meaning that playing is more fun than watching, and having a role, they feel more included.”

“And what I have learned also is that it affects their academics, which means there is a link to performing and playing, to academic success as well as social conduct. So yeah, when in doubt, they’re going to play.”

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