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VIRGINIA FOOTBALL

Key Virginia football players face big decisions about their futures

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Deciphering what comes after Wednesday’s Fenway Bowl hasn’t been the easiest task for Noah Taylor.

Although the Virginia senior linebacker is playing in the Cavaliers’ postseason tilt against SMU, he’s in the transfer portal, navigating it and pontificating the options stemming from it.

“It’s good because you just realize how much people like you and how many people think that you’re such a good player,” Taylor said. “But I guess the bad side of it is you get a lot of hard decisions to make.”

Taylor said he’s heard from many schools, and at the same time, new UVa coach Tony Elliott has made a solid first impression.

That’s created a dilemma for the veteran defender and he said he won’t make a choice about whether to stay in Charlottesville or depart the Cavaliers until after their bowl bout in Boston.

Taylor opted to enter the transfer portal on Dec. 6 — four days after outgoing Hoos coach Bronco Mendenhall announced his plans to walk away from his post following their bowl game.

“There’s so much,” Taylor said when asked about his decision-making process.

“I kind of am going back and forth with, ‘Do I want a new environment?’” he said. “Or a goal I had coming in here was to be the best linebacker to ever come out and obviously that didn’t happen, so I want to come back and do that again to prove myself and show everyone the player I really am. So, it’s kind of this constant back and forth with, ‘What do I do? What do I do?’ So that’s what really makes it a hard decision.”

In his four seasons with the Cavaliers, Taylor has appeared in 44 games, having racked up 170 total tackles to go along with 30 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks. He also has three interceptions and two forced fumbles.

Taylor is not the only key member of the program weighing his options either.

Center Olu Oluwatimi, a finalist for the Rimington Award, as well as left tackle Bobby Haskins and defensive tackle Aaron Faumui are in the transfer portal, too. Of those three, Haskins is the only one who won’t play in the Fenway Bowl, but that’s because he had surgery at the conclusion of the regular season. Oluwatimi took a recruiting visit to Michigan last week.

Mendenhall said he’s offered advice to those deciding whether to stay or go is best for them.

“I’ve just asked them to wait as long as possible to see who will be the next version of UVa, and then make sure that’s considered,” Mendenhall said.

He said it’s important for those in the portal to know exactly how Elliott shapes his staff.

“The best decisions are made on the most information,” Mendenhall said, “and many times outside sources try to have us rush and impose time frames and they give us partial information that’s special-interested that might benefit them without seeing everything and the best [options].

“I want them to see everything,” he continued. “I want them to know all their options and I prefer they all remain to continue on. However, they get to choose, just like coaches get to choose, and I think that’s fair. But my hope is that they would not choose until they know exactly what happens here.”

UVa junior quarterback Brennan Armstrong was still waiting for necessary information as of Wednesday, he said, to figure out a decision about his future. He’ll make a choice after the bowl game about playing another year with the Cavaliers or pursuing the NFL.

Armstrong, a Manning Award and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award finalist this season, has thrown for 4,449 yards and 31 touchdowns this campaign. He set school single-season marks for passing, total offense, passing touchdowns and completions.

He submitted a request for feedback from the NFL regarding his projection for the draft, but the league hasn’t returned it yet.

“The letter will say, recommend for [Armstrong] to come back to school,” Mendenhall said of what he believes the feedback will show, “and like continue to break every passing record and winning record in the galaxy and then go on and win Super Bowls and be in the Pro Bowl and everything else you’re going to do after one more year of college. That’s what I think it’ll say.”

Until then and until Armstrong knows what he’ll be doing next fall, he said he’ll keep recruiting those like Taylor to stick around.

“‘We’ve been here a long time and why would you want to go?’” Armstrong said of what his pitch to teammates with options has been. “There’s unknowns at other schools, but there’s knowns here. There’s a new coach, but there are still knowns here. You’re cemented here compared to other places. … And then asking if they want to play with me one more year, so maybe that can swing ‘em one way or another and maybe that can get guys to come back and see what their responses are. That makes my decision harder depending on what people do, so there are a lot of moving parts. But I’m trying not to think about that right now just because we have a game and I’ve been focused on that.”

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