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Bryce Perkins Starring for UVA

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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Dynamic and efficient, Bryce Perkins is suddenly one of the top signal callers in the country.

The only QBs this millennium with at least 25 TD passes, fewer than ten INTs, a 64% completion percentage and 900 yards rushing in a single season are: Johnny Manziel, Kyler Murray, Cam Newton and Perkins.

This time last year, Virginia's Bryce Perkins was competing for the Cavaliers' starting quarterback job. A transfer from Arizona Western Community College, Perkins ultimately took over atop the depth chart, scored four touchdowns in his first game and, in review, helped lead Virginia to eight wins. Last fall, he was one of just two players in college football with at least 2,600 yards passing and 900 yards rushing; the other qualifier won the Heisman Trophy.

Dynamic and efficient, Perkins, this summer, returns as one of the top signal callers in the country.

The rise of Perkins nearly pushed Virginia to the top of the ACC Coastal standings. Finishing third, but tying for tops in the division in total wins, the Cavaliers lost late conference games at Georgia Tech and at Virginia Tech by a combined six points. Virginia entered November at 6-2 and, for the first time in quite some time, in the national conversation. It was a successful season for Bronco Mendenhall's bunch; it was very nearly a historic one. With Perkins returning, the status quo will continue to be pushed.

Perkins was quick to both settle in and shine. He rushed for over 100 yards in his first two career games and threw for three touchdowns in his third. Matched up with likely first round NFL Draft pick Daniel Jones and Duke, Perkins completed 20-of-32 passes and scored three times in a 28-14 road win against the Blue Devils. Over the final three games of the season, facing the Yellow Jackets, Hokies and South Carolina in the Belk Bowl, Perkins threw for 684 yards with seven touchdowns and zero interceptions, adding 266 yards rushing and another score.

Charlotte looked more like Charlottesville to end the year as Virginia shutout the SEC's Gamecocks 28-0 in a statement performance for Perkins, the defense and the Cavaliers as a whole. The triumph marked Virginia's first bowl win since 2005. It was the program's first bowl shutout ever. Perkins, who led his JUCO team to the national championship game is his prior postseason stint, compiled 289 total yards and threw a trio of touchdown passes.

What Perkins did as a junior didn't just put him in rare company last season, such production has him in a rare generational grouping. Remarkably, the only quarterbacks this millennium with at least 25 touchdown passes, fewer than ten interceptions, a 64% completion percentage and 900 yards rushing in a single season are: Johnny Manziel, Kyler Murray, Cam Newton and Perkins. The other three all won the Heisman Trophy.

Though still underrated, the spotlight, for Perkins, is now on. After setting new program records for total offense with 3,603 yards and total touchdowns with 34, what will he do with also a full year of experience? From being merely one name in spring competition to being one of the faces of the ACC, Perkins leads a talented Virginia team that also boasts one of the nation's premier defensive backfields. The two Bryces, featuring Perkins and All-American cornerback Bryce Hall, give the Cavaliers real star power.

Perkins has the stat sheet and bloodlines alike. His father Bruce played running back at Arizona State and was a fullback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts. Bryce's brother Paul earned All-Pac 12 honors at UCLA and currently plays for the New York Giants. Their uncle Don was an All-American at New Mexico, the 1961 NFL Rookie of the Year, a three-time All-Pro, a six-time Pro Bowler and is in the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor. Clearly, Bryce is the next-in-line. 

Needless to say, this spring will have a different feel for Perkins. He is fresh off a year where he finished with more passing touchdowns than Shea Patterson, a higher completion percentage than Drew Lock, more rushing yards than Damien Harris and as many rushing touchdowns as Miles Sanders. Perkins has a brand in place and, correspondingly, the big expectations that follow. This is a stage he has both worked for and is ready for.

Virginia will enter this fall as one of the favorites in the ACC Coastal and a team to watch nationally. Out in front and ready for more, Perkins is a big reason why.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports