Final home game arrives for UVA's 'pioneers'

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- Mike London was the head coach at Virginia when Jordan Mack first committed to play safety for the Cavaliers in the summer of the 2015.

A lot has changed since then.

Mack, was one of 25 players to sign with UVA in February of 2016, two months after Bronco Mendenhall was hired to replace London as head football coach. Now a senior captain and inside linebacker at UVA, Mack is one of a dozen players from that signing class still on the UVA roster.

Four of those players -- Mack, receivers Joe Reed and Hasise Dubois, and injured cornerback and captain Bryce Hall -- will take the field at Scott Stadium for the final time on Friday afternoon, when UVA hosts No. 23 Virginia Tech.

"A lot of memories. A lot of growing up," Mack said this week when asked about his four seasons at UVA. "Not only physically, but mentally. Becoming a man. That was the biggest part of just going through this program. Growing up mentally and physically, and ready to take on the world and change the world."

In total, almost two dozen fourth- and fifth-year UVA players will be honored during Friday's pregame Senior Day ceremony. Other than a handful of transfers -- most notably quarterback Bryce Perkins -- most of them have been with Mendenhall throughout his four seasons at the school.

The Cavaliers went just 2-10 in 2016, Mendenhall's first year as coach and either the freshman or redshirt freshman season for this year's senior class. That win total improved to six in 2017 and then eight last year, a figure this year's team has matched this season. A win on Friday would clinch the UVA program's first-ever Coastal Division title.

Earlier this week, Mendenhall called the seniors who've helped turn the program around "pioneers."

"Our coaches were mentioning today, and there are names that they're throwing out of the fourth- and fifth-year that they've developed really strong appreciation for, and bonds with, and I think admiration for," the head coach said on Monday. "And we certainly could not and would not have made the progress we've made just without their consistency, but really their willingness to trust us."

Perkins arrived at UVA prior to last season, but has spent his two years in a Virginia uniform rewriting the program's record book. Last weekend against Liberty, he moved into a tie for third on the school's all-time list -- with Jameel Sewell, Aaron Brooks and Marques Hagans -- with his 16th win as the Wahoos' starting quarterback.

In UVA's win earlier this month at North Carolina, Perkins set a new single-game school record with 490 yards of total offense. Through his 24 career games, Perkins has climbed to fourth all-time in passing yards (5,318) at Virginia, and second all-time in rushing yards (1,446) among quarterbacks.

But it's the goals that still remain in play for Perkins and his teammates -- ending the program's 15-game losing streak against the Hokies and a Coastal Division title can both happen on Friday -- that has the quarterback's focus heading into Senior Day.

"Still not done," Perkins said last week. "And I hope that when I leave, this team is known as one of the best UVA teams that has come around. And to do things that a lot of UVA teams haven't done. I hope that when I leave, the legacy of me is the legacy of us as a team."