During his February 2 press conference, University of Virginia head football coach Tony Elliott noted the possibility of adding a running back through the transfer portal this offseason.
“Really excited to see [the current running backs] get an opportunity as we install the offense, because I believe we’re going to be a little bit more balanced and give those guys opportunities to showcase, but just looking at numbers-wise, looking at another running back,” Elliott said.
Those running back numbers dwindled further, at least this spring, when senior Ronnie Walker Jr. went down with an injury during spring practice. Walker Jr. will “be out for a little while,” Elliott said during his April 2 press conference, leaving the Hoos with junior Mike Hollins and redshirt freshman Amaad Foston as the two primary scholarship running backs available this spring.
Virginia adds true freshman and 2022 Kentucky Gatorade Player of the Year Xavier Brown to the running back room this summer, and “football player” Keytaon Thompson should remain a factor as far as getting carries, but Walker Jr’s injury highlights the need for another true running back in the program for the upcoming season. A new target has emerged in the transfer portal: Buffalo graduate transfer Dylan McDuffie.
— Dylan McDuffie (@dylanmcduffie8) April 3, 2022
McDuffie had a quiet first three seasons in Buffalo. The 6’0”, 207-pound back rushed 38 times for 225 yards in 17 games combined. McDuffie broke out in a big way this past season, though, rushing for 1,049 yards and 11 touchdowns on 206 carries. He eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark in four of Buffalo’s final six games.
Virginia’s Elliott wants his running backs to be able to run and catch, and McDuffie flashed some receiving ability in 2021, when he tallied 14 receptions for 123 yards and a score.
In addition to UVA, McDuffie has claimed scholarship offers from Duke, Florida Atlantic, Western Kentucky and Texas-San Antonio since he announced his intention to transfer on March 31. The bruising back claims two years of eligibility remaining,
More Portal News
– Vanderbilt offensive tackle transfer Tyler Steen, older brother of UVA class of 2022 offensive line signee Blake Steen, is expected to announce his decision soon according to Andrew Ivins of 247 Sports.
Alabama, LSU, Virginia and Kentucky are the reported finalists for the 6’5”, 315-pound Steen, who started each of the past three seasons for the Commodores and has experience playing left and right tackle.
– Former Virginia running back Wayne Taulapapa has found a new home. He announced via Twitter that he will attend the University of Washington next year.
High School Recruiting: New Offer In The Commonwealth
Though Virginia is active in the transfer portal, Coach Elliott has made it clear that his priority is to build the program primarily through high school recruiting. Elliott has also emphasized that being successful in-state is important. This past weekend the Cavalier head coach extended a new in-state offer in the class of 2023, to Massaponax (Fredericksburg, VA) athlete Donte Hawthorne.
— Donté Hawthorne (@DonteHawthorne3) April 3, 2022
As his team’s starting quarterback, the 6’0”, 200-pound Hawthorne rushed for 1,123 yards last season as a junior. Virginia Tech is also expressing interest and hosted the Massaponax standout on a visit recently, but UVA is Hawthorne’s first Division 1 scholarship offer.
Hawthorne’s was likely not the only April 3 tweet to get the attention of UVA fans. Four-star defensive line prospect Joel Starlings posted the following this past Sunday.
i think i might stick with this 0️⃣😏 pic.twitter.com/JssguaPzON
— JOEL “GRIM REAPER” STARLINGS (@JoelStarlings) April 3, 2022
The 6’5″, 310-pound Starlings, a product of Benedictine (Richmond, VA), has Virginia as one of his top 12 schools, with Auburn, Florida State, Georgia, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Penn State, South Carolina, Texas A&M, Virginia Tech, West Virginia and Wisconsin included as well. A former Michigan commit, Starlings tweets that he will announce a top eight on May 4.