Former JMU Stars Atariwa, Amos Join Virginia Football Program As Grad-Transfers

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Two more quality graduate transfers are joining the University of Virginia football program. Unlike the four who came before them, 6’3”, 277-pound Adeeb Atariwa and 6’1”, 185-pound D’Angelo Amos are playmakers on the defensive side of the ball.

Atariwa and Amos made their transfer decisions official on Sunday (August 9), two days after their former school, James Madison University, announced the suspension of the football season. While the Dukes are leaving open the possibility of playing in the spring, it appears the decision to delay swayed Atariwa and Amos to leave.

The duo enjoyed standout careers at the FCS powerhouse. They both graduated in 2019 with Atariwa earning a degree in Economics and Amos earning a degree in Sport and Recreation Management. Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall took to Twitter to welcome the newest Hoos.

Atariwa played in 39 career games for the Dukes. He started 23 games in his career, including 15 starts in 16 games at the nose guard position last season. In 2019, Atariwa racked up 52 tackles including 13 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks, and added a fumble recovery, a forced fumble, and one blocked kick as the Dukes marched to the FCS Championship game.

Atariwa’s decision adds depth and talent to an already strong Virginia defensive line unit that is headlined by sixth-year senior Richard Burney (18 games played on defense (started career at TE), 9 starts), senior Mandy Alonso (34 games played, 18 starts), junior Aaron Faumui (26 games played, 9 starts) and talented sophomore Jowon Briggs (13 games played, 7 starts).

D’Angelo Amos was a star punt returner and safety at JMU. ~ Photo credit: James Madison University Athletics

Amos, who played in 44 games in his stellar JMU career, finished no. 2 all-time in career punt return yards with 1,259. The Richmond (VA) native returned five punts for touchdowns in his time in Harrisonburg. Amos earned All-CAA First Team honors at safety and punt returner in 2019, when he finished with 57 tackles, five pass breakups and two interceptions. The special teams star also achieved 426 yards on 33 punt returns (12.9 yards per return) and blocked three kicks as a redshirt junior.

An Impressive Graduate-Transfer Haul For The Hoos

Atariwa and Amos join Mississippi State quarterback Keytaon Thompson, Towson all-purpose running back Shane Simpson, St. Francis (PA) wide receiver Ra’Shaun Henry and Central Michigan tight end Tony Poljan as the graduate transfers Virginia has added for this coming season.

Quarterback Keytaon Thompson – Thompson, the only one of the six who has two years of eligibility remaining, is in camp looking to compete with Brennan Armstrong for the starting quarterback position vacated by Bryce Perkins. The 6’4”, 225-pound Thompson has the dual-threat capabilities Bronco Mendenhall covets at quarterback.

All-Purpose running back Shane Simpson – An FCS All-American in the all-purpose category in 2018, Simpson gives Virginia a top kick returner to replace UVA’s best kick returner of all time, Joe Reed. He also adds more playmaking ability and depth to a thin Virginia running back position, as he excels as a runner and as a receiver. The biggest question with Simpson will be his health. While he is cleared to play after recovering from a torn ACL and MCL suffered in the third game of last season, will he have the same explosion and quickness?

Wide receiver Ra’Shaun Henry – Henry broke out in a big way last season for St. Francis (PA), hauling in 90 receptions for 1,118 yards and nine touchdowns. His final five games were special, as he totaled 53 catches for 777 yards and seven touchdowns in that span. The 6’3”, 185-pound Henry is competing for a starting spot at what is a relatively wide-open position outside of Terrell Jana and Billy Kemp IV.

Tight end Tony Poljan – Poljan, who is coming off his first full season at tight end at Central Michigan, is a strong candidate to be a starter for the Hoos. The 6’7″, 260-pound redshirt senior is big, athletic, has demonstrated the ability to be a significant receiving threat, and has drawn NFL buzz. His addition gives the offense a big playmaker and also allows redshirt sophomore Grant Misch to remain a contributor while not having too much on his plate.

Atariwa – The Virginia defensive line unit has the potential to be one of strongest units on the team in 2020. And that was before today’s news. Atariwa gives the Hoos another mature, proven playmaker on the defensive line. He’s a good fit at the nose and as a tackle when the Hoos go to a 4-man line.

Amos – Billy Kemp IV provided consistent, reliable play as a punt returner last season. Amos appears special in that role, though. Amos is also an accomplished safety. While cornerback is a bigger question for Virginia this season, the addition of Amos provides more depth and perhaps more flexibility as Nick Howell and Kelly Poppinga try and find the best 11 players to start on defense.

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1 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. No question that the graduate transfer approach will help the ‘Hoos in the short term. But is there a negative side to this – morale among players who have been with the team all along? suspicion from high school recruits? a sort of Hessian image? incorporating new senior players into team philosophy and playbook on a reverse “one-and-done” basis?

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