FILE - In this Dec. 7, 2015, file photo, new University of Virginia NCAA college head football coach Bronco Mendenhall smiles during a news conference at the school in Charlottesville, Va. Mendenhall wants it all at Virginia, and when the former BYU coach
Steve Helber, File
April 20, 2016

New Virginia football coach Bronco Mendenhall is changing the way the Cavaliers approach the game, one phrase at a time.

''Earned, not given'' now addresses the right to practice.

''Two ways to do things: right, or again'' addresses the attention to detail.

Under Mendenhall, the Cavaliers are working to meet a new standard, and linebacker Micah Kiser thinks what he has often experienced during his career - ''Virginia football - close but not there yet'' - is about to become a memory.

Mendenhall's success at BYU the last 11 years is reason enough for the Cavaliers to be optimistic about the future heading into Saturday's spring game.

''Right now, they're changing the culture and you can see that the way guys are working,'' Kiser said. ''Earned, not given. Everyone's bought into that, but they're still working on changing our mentality. In the past it was, `Woe is me. Oh, this happened. We were this close.''

Kiser and other Cavaliers have shared their frustrations on how a career on the precipice of success has not been appealing for anyone. They're looking for a way to get over the hump.

That's one reason incumbent quarterback Matt Johns is not at all surprised that players have welcomed a more structured approach why he has been delighted by the transition from Mike London to Mendenhall. The Cavaliers are wearing no numbers during spring practice, and there is no sign of the Virginia logo (V with crossed sabres) on any of their practice gear.

''I think, because the team has come so close in previous years under coach London, when these coaches got here, I think the resistance wasn't what they expected because here's a team that not in shambles,'' Johns said. ''We've lost a lot of games in the past years by seven or less points. That is such a small margin. This team is not falling apart. We just needed a change, and that's why they're here.

''We needed them.''

The change has had an immediate impact, Johns said, based on the players showing up at the program's football facility, the McCue Center.

''I've never seen so many kids here at McCue on their off time working on things, watching film, getting on the board, meeting with coaches,'' the rising senior said. ''That didn't happen in the past.''

Kiser initially wondered what prompted Mendenhall, who won 99 games and went to 11 consecutive bowl games at BYU, to walk away from that and come to Virginia. But he said the coach's approach has sold him, especially after the team had to earn the right to practice.

Eventually, players will earn the right to earn jerseys, too, and to choose their numbers.

''I think that's what gave BYU an edge, that they were doing what everyone else wasn't doing,'' Kiser said. ''The coaches tell us all the time that at BYU, they didn't have superior athletes. Here we're definitely more athletic, but they did what other teams weren't going to do, and that little bit of effort is what got them 10 wins a year.''

Junior safety Quin Blanding, who has earned all-ACC honors in each if his first two seasons, looks at the next two years as the start of a dynasty for the Cavaliers, considering Mendenhall's track record at BYU.

''The numbers don't lie,'' Blanding said.


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