The long-awaited NFL Draft finally arrives later this week and one of the more intriguing prospects could be Virginia linebacker Charles Snowden. Analysts have penned Snowden as “impossible to miss when watching the Cavaliers’ defense” (thedraftnetwork.com), as a “pterodactyl” on defense (SI.com), and as someone who “oozes potential” (profootballnetwork.com) for example. But, Snowden is also interesting because it isn’t clear what his draft position will be.
The UVA standout saw an injury end his career late last season when he went down against Abilene Christian. He led ACC linebackers with 0.75 sacks per game and he finished 13th in the nation among linebackers with 6 sacks despite missing most of the final three games. He posted 44 tackles this season with 10 tackles for loss and 1 forced fumble. He earned second-team All-ACC honors and honorable mention All-America recognition from Phil Steele.
Snowden finished his career with 15 sacks to tie for No. 15 all-time in program history. He also had 190 career tackles, 3 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recovers, 2 interceptions, and 2 blocked kicks. A 6’7″, 240-pound outside linebacker that took on roles from edge-setting to pass rushing to dropping in coverage, it’s his versatility that has the attention of NFL organizations.
He met with all 32 teams at the Senior Bowl even though he couldn’t participate on the field. In recent weeks, half of the league’s teams have held meetings with him again. That includes the Cardinals and Packers according to reports within the last week. With an injury similar to Bryce Hall, Snowden could be in a similar situation. Hall went to the New York Jets in the fifth round after his injury, but worked his way into the starting lineup by midseason for 7 games. He finished with 34 tackles and an INT.
Cavalier coach Bronco Mendenhall said that Snowden’s injury hurt him in the draft build-up due to the uncertainty, but he’s sure that some team will end up happy with the selection.
“There are plenty that are interested because of his size, because of his character, as well as his production,” Mendenhall said. “He’s had a great career. So there are plenty that are interested. … He’ll have an opportunity. I don’t know with what team, I don’t know with what round, I don’t know the circumstances, but whoever gets him will be lucky.”
More On Woods
Chris Horne took a closer look at the tight end position in this recent article, but how Virginia ended up with Oklahoma State transfer Jelani Woods hinged on a couple of things: portal awareness and the Tony Poljan example. Woods enrolled at UVA at the beginning of the semester and has drawn praise from the coaches in spring practice. Offensive coordinator Robert Anae noted that the 6’7″, 263-pound tight end is tall, strong, and athletic with a good football IQ. Earlier, Mendenhall dished out this praise: “Jelani Woods is probably the brightest spot that I’ve seen in our program this spring.”
So how did the Hoos land the potential standout? Their attention to the transfer portal, which Mendenhall indicated in the past that the football support staff monitors for potential fits, helped get things off on the right foot. Woods said he decided to transfer and joked it was like 10 seconds before the Cavaliers were in touch.
“After I put my name in the transfer portal, I would say actually Virginia was the first school to hit me up – they hit me up in about 10 seconds,” Woods said with a smile. “I remember I was in my room … and the next thing you know I’m on Twitter and I have five or six UVA coaches texting me. … I would say it was a pretty quick process.”
Woods said the Wahoos sealed the deal with their pitch. One, Mendenhall made it clear what the program needed at the tight end position and not just that they wanted Woods. Two, Poljan’s graduate transfer season played a key role. Poljan came in last season and led the team in touchdown catches with 6 and finished second on the team in receptions with 38. Between what Woods watched on his own, which he said was pretty much every game, and how the coaches chopped up film to show him the tight end in action, the choice became easy.
“Me and my folks went on YouTube and caught a couple of ACC games, really all of them,” Woods said. “I watched every game to see the stuff he was doing, to see if I would like the things he would do, pretty much doing research on it. I loved what he was doing because I felt likethat was a perfect position and perfect stuff that I would be great at.”
Like Riding a Bicycle
When Danny Caracciolo arrived at Virginia, the last time he snapped in a game came at James Madison in 2017 when he handled the punt snap duties in all 15 games. After leaving the Dukes, he spent two years on the Bryant football team while getting a finance degree but did not appear in any games.
For UVA, he snapped on all the field goal attempts and PATs in 2020. It didn’t take long to work off any in-game rust from the layoff.
“I battled some injuries and had to sit out a year,” Caracciolo said. “I mean you do it enough to where it becomes repetition and you don’t really have to think about it that much. Obviously, getting in the team setting is a little different than out in the backyard or out in the field by yourself but it’s one of those things when you do it at this level and you have this amount of reps, it just should be ingrained. Obviously, you have to fine tune as things go but like any specialized position, that’s all you do.”
UVA tight end Grant Misch on the offense’s potential versatility: “I think besides the fact that our bodies are able to do a lot of things, we have a lot of smart players and our minds are able to do a lot of things so that just gives the ability to do more things.”