99 Virginia Football Thoughts Before Kickoff

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Virginia football updated its roster this week, adding in new first-years and transfers. Along with those new scholarship players, the Hoos revealed 24 new walk-ons, including 23 first-years as well as Air Force Academy transfer offensive lineman Victor Oluwatimi.

(On a side note, it appears Oluwatimi will not be joined in Charlottesville by former DeMatha Catholic teammate Beau English. English, a quarterback/athlete, is reportedly staying at Air Force after also considering a transfer to Virginia.)

99 Virginia Football Thoughts Before Kickoff: No. 46 – A Look At Virginia Football’s 2018 Walk-On Class

1. A large in-state haul. Eleven in-state prospects accepted scholarship offers from Virginia in Bronco Mendenhall’s first two full recruiting classes as Cavalier head coach. Three scholarship prospects from the Commonwealth are committed in 2019 (UVA has 17 commitments in 2019).

The Cavaliers may not be having the type of success they want with respect to in-state scholarship prospects. They are, however, making inroads in the Commonwealth with walk-ons. The incoming first-year class includes 15 walk-ons who graduated from in-state schools. Four walk-ons from the 2017 Class attended schools in the Commonwealth.

Additionally, three class of 2018 walk-ons attended Washington (D.C.) programs and three more from schools in Maryland. One class of 2017 walk-on attended school in Washington (D.C.).

Adding this many recruited walk-ons should help as this staff continues to build and deepen relationships in the state and in surrounding areas that are traditionally important to Virginia recruiting. Becoming a consistent winner remains the most important factor, of course, but the in-state focus is evident and should help.

2. A special teams, defensive back-heavy group. Recruiting walk-ons for kicking, punting, and long snapping is commonplace, and the 2018 Class certainly does that. Coach Mendenhall brought in two long snappers (Lee Dudley and Tucker Finkelston) and two kickers, including one place-kicker (Jack Collins of Austin, Texas) and one punter/place-kicker (Jerry Horng).

Virginia loses its current long snapper, Joe Spaziani, after this season. There are other options on the roster expected back for next season (Richard Burney, for example), but Lee Dudley is a highly-regarded prospect who could be a very important addition in terms of being able to contribute early.

On the kicking front, 2017 walk-on A.J. Mejia earned the starting place-kicker position last season and turned in a solid season overall. I expect he’ll be right there competing for the starting job this year, though UVA has a scholarship kicker, Hunter Pearson, coming in as well as Collins and Horng to push him.

Outside of the four specialists, Virginia’s walk-on tally includes one quarterback (Da’Juan Moore, cousin of former UVA star signal caller Shawn Moore), three running backs, one fullback, one wide receiver, one wide receiver/defensive back, three offensive lineman, two defensive linemen, two linebackers, and a whopping six defensive backs.

3. Is there another Brenton Nelson or Daniel Hamm in the group? Virginia struck gold with safety Brenton Nelson, who walked on in 2016 before earning ACC All-Rookie honors in a starting role last season. Lester Coleman and Daniel Hamm walked on and ultimately earned scholarships as well as significant roles, with Coleman the starting punter and Hamm the starting punt returner and regular running back backup. Munich Hoo was thinking about possible “diamonds in the rough” from this year’s walk-on class, so here are some guesses from me.

– Lee Dudley. Long snapper is a spot UVA will have fill after this season, and the former Woodberry Forest (VA) standout could be the one. Not a flashy position, but a necessary one.

– Trevor Storm. A 6’7”, 230-pound defensive lineman out of Easton (PA), Storm spurned scholarship offers including Ivy League opportunities to walk on at Virginia. He has a long way to go in the weight room, but his frame and solid athleticism could turn into something for Virginia down the road on the D-line.

– Jack Keenan. The 6’5”, 275-pound Gonzaga College (D.C.) offensive lineman earned first-team all-WCAC honors as a senior.

– Perris Jones. Jones is only 5’9”, 175 pounds, but the Episcopal (Alexandria, VA) running back earned 2017 VISAA first-team all-state honors as a senior despite playing the year with a cast on his right wrist. He doesn’t have blazing speed, but he’s quick with good acceleration, vision, and balance. Here are his senior season highlights.

The “99 Virginia Football Thoughts Before Kickoff” series has discussed much more. The previous articles are below. Click away.

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