50 Virginia Football Thoughts Before Kickoff: Workhorse Search

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Virginia must replace Jordan Ellis at running back.
PK Kier runs with the ball in a spring practice. ~ Kris Wright

The Virginia football team must replace several key elements on the roster this season. That’s because a lot of production left with some of the Cavaliers’ seniors.

Gone are Juan Thornhill and Olamide Zaccheaus, for example, after they led the Hoos in interceptions and receiving as seniors. Thornhill snared 6 picks to go with a team-leading 98 tackles. He’s making noise already with the Kansas City Chiefs. Zaccheaus hauled in 93 catches for 1,058 yards and 9 touchdowns, set several UVA records, and then joined the Atlanta Falcons.

Gone too is Jordan Ellis. When Ellis cracked the 1,000-yard barrier last season, it marked the first time in five years and just the second time in 14 years that a Virginia player hit that milestone. Ellis finished with 1,026 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns, which led UVA in both categories.

The symbolism of Ellis is gone too. He had the first pick in the Cavalier jersey draft in each of Bronco Mendenhall’s first three years and took the No. 1 the last two – earned not given. Ellis led by example and let his play do the talking – less drama, more work. Ellis played in every game but one these past three years and scored at least one touchdown every year – durable, consistent, and productive.

So, yes, that’s a key player to replace in 2019. Mendenhall said the search