Virginia Football Notes: Grad-Transfer Duo To Enroll In February

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Tight end Jelani Woods has signed a grant-in-aid with the University of Virginia and plans to enroll on Grounds in the 2021 Spring Semester. Louisville cornerback grad-transfer Anthony Johnson will do the same. ~ Photo courtesy of Oklahoma State Athletics

Graduate transfers Anthony Johnson and Jelani Woods have signed grant-in-aid papers with the University of Virginia, Fralin Family Head Football Coach Bronco Mendenhall announced on Monday (January 4).

Johnson, a 6’1”, 205-pound defensive back and graduate of Louisville, and Woods, a 6’7”, 275-pound tight end and graduate of Oklahoma State, plan to enroll on Grounds during the 2021 Spring Semester, which begins on February 1.

The midyear enrollment is good news as both players figure to play significant roles for the Hoos next season. If offseason normalcy returns, Johnson and Woods will have the opportunity to go through spring practice to gear up for the 2021 campaign. Both players have two years of eligibility remaining.

Johnson, who played in 32 games and earned five starts, adds more experience to a cornerback position that relied heavily on De’Vante Cross and Nick Grant in 2020. According to Pro Football Focus, the Florida native played all but one game at cornerback for the Cardinals, finishing with 42 tackles, four tackles for loss, two interceptions and 15 pass breakups. Per Pro Football Focus grades, Johnson’s best season came in 2019, when he received a 69.8 overall defensive grade and a 73.3 coverage mark in 480 snaps. By contrast, UVA’s starting cornerbacks earned PFF overall defensive grades of 63.7 (Grant) and 49.5 (Cross) and PFF coverage grades of 63 (Grant) and 48.9 (Cross), although they saw many more snaps (Grant 634, Cross 627). Johnson played 119 defensive snaps in 2020.

Should Johnson work his way into a starting role, Cross could move back to safety, which is where he started out the 2019 season and played well. If everyone is healthy, this would give the Hoos an experienced starting four defensive backs heading into 2021 – Grant and Johnson at cornerback, Cross and Joey Blount at safety.

Woods will likely assume the starting tight end role vacated by Tony Poljan. Though Virginia returns an experienced player and capable starter in Grant Misch, Misch has been utilized in more of a blocking role the past two seasons. Woods has more potential as a receiver.

In 34 games (28 starts) with the Cowboys, Woods totaled 31 catches for 361 yards and four touchdowns. Nine of those receptions and 129 receiving yards came in 2020. Meanwhile, he improved his run-blocking this past season, earning a Pro Football Focus grade of 72.6 in that area. In 2019 Woods received a 57.9 run-blocking mark from PFF.

If Woods uses both years of eligibility and stays healthy, UVA has two very good experienced tight ends while the Hoos groom up-and-comers Joshua Rawlings (first-year) and Jack Witmer (2021 Class signee).

Recruiting Week In Review: Rodriguez Boosts Rider Into State Semis; Weeks, Oconee County Fall Short In State Championship

Rider (Wichita Falls, TX), which features University of Virginia football quarterback recruit Jacob Rodriguez, defeated Cooper (Lubbock, TX), 21-13, last week to advance to the Class 5A Division II state semifinals. The Region 1 champion Raiders will face Region II champion Aledo on Friday for the right to compete for a state championship.

Trailing 13-7 in the third quarter, the Raiders scored 14 unanswered points to close out the victory. Both scores came on Rodriguez runs. The first, an 11-yard touchdown run, came with 3:22 remaining in the third quarter. The second was an 18-yard scoring run in the fourth that capped off a 13-play, 86-yard drive.

Rodriguez, who plans to enroll at UVA next month, finished the game with 295 total yards (206 passing, 89 rushing), two rushing touchdowns and two interceptions.

The Raiders (11-2) will next face an Aledo team (11-1) that earned a spot in the state semifinals with a 52-48 victory over previously unbeaten Lovejoy. Aledo is the reigning 5A state champion and has captured the title each of the past two seasons that included an undefeated 2018 campaign.

Click here for a full game story courtesy of the Times Record News. Below are highlights courtesy of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. (Rodriguez is #10 in black.)

Oconee County Falls Short

For the second straight season, Oconee County (Watkinsville, GA) competed for a state championship title. For the second straight season, the Warriors came up a score short of capturing the title.

The Warriors, led by UVA-bound linebacker West Weeks, lost in the 2020 Georgia 3A state championship game to Pierce County, 13-7. They dropped a 17-14 decision to Blessed Trinity in the Class 4A state title game the year before.

Oconee County held a 7-0 advantage heading into the fourth quarter but surrendered a 5-yard touchdown run with 7:23 remaining, and the game went to overtime. Oconee County had the first possession but threw an interception. Pierce County scored the winning touchdown on the next play.

Weeks, who projects as an inside linebacker at UVA, has since been named Region 8-3A Player of the year. His younger brother, Whit, earned first-team all-region honors at linebacker. Whit has also been offered by the Hoos.

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