Bronco sets high bar for Perkins

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- Bryce Perkins led the Virginia football team to eight wins and a Belk Bowl victory in his first season as the Cavaliers' quarterback, and broke a handful of school records along the way.

Perkins is entering his senior season with more preseason hype for a UVA quarterback since the days of Marques Hagans and Matt Schaub. Prior to this summer, they were the last two Cavaliers to appear on the preseason watch list for the Davey O'Brien Award, given to the best quarterback in the country. Perkins also received a few votes for preseason ACC player of the year.

The Wahoos open the season with a Coastal Division matchup at Pitt on Saturday night. Entering that game, teammates and coaches say Perkins looks prepared to take the next step this season.

"He just seems more at home back there now," UVA junior wide receiver Terrell Jana said this week.

"He's just cool under pressure," said offensive line coach Garett Tujague. "He's always been calm and cool under pressure, but way deeper knowledge of our offense. Really good job of getting guys motivated and playing hard."

Perkins told reporters this week that he feels he is reading defenses better and making quicker decisions this season.

"I'm obsessed with just trying to be a better version of myself," Perkins said. "So anything -- whether it's film, whether it's on the field, whether it's running or throwing. Just trying to look at what I did and just, all right. What do I need to do to improve that. And every day going out there and trying something new that will help me be more successful on the field."

After arriving at UVA from an Arizona junior college before the 2018 spring semester, Perkins started all 13 games for the Cavaliers last season. He competed 64.5 percent of his passes for 2,680 yards, with 25 touchdowns and nine interceptions, and ran for 923 yards and nine touchdowns.

Perkins set new single-season UVA records for yards of total offense (3,603) and touchdowns responsible for (34), and tied the school record with four 100-yard rushing games by a quarterback. He also led the Cavaliers to the program's first eight-win season since 2011, and its first postseason bowl win since 2005.

UVA enters the 2019 season as the preseason favorite to win the Coastal Division. And according to head coach Bronco Mendenhall, Perkins' senior season will ultimately be defined by how the Cavaliers fare as a team.

"The very best quarterbacks lead their team to championships. And so outcome is really going to determine where he's grown," Mendenhall said. "So making the critical play at the critical time in a critical game, that's what the best guys do."

"So hopefully Bryce has advanced to that part and that point, and we won't know until we play."

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