Last year's recruiting class included 2 DTs, Tyrell Chavis and Donte Wilkins(Jack English was also a possible DT, although he was initially slotted at DE and has since moved to TE and now to OT). Chavis was coming off a year spent at Fork Union Military Academy, and so he seemed like a good bet to play early. Wilkins, however, was rated as one of the top DT recruits in the nation and was on numerous DC metro area award teams. He was a two time player of the year on both offense and defense (he played OL as well as DL in High School).
During training camp, fans were given a glimpse into his potential and it became clear that he, and not Chavis, was ready to play early. With the loss Chris Brathwaite to academic troubles, there was a hole in the 2-deep at DT, so Wilkins was immediately named as a 2nd string DT behind senior Brent Urban and sophomore David Dean. Chavis is no longer listed on the UVA roster, although he is still enrolled at UVA.
Wilkins did not play in the season's first 2 games, but then saw a fair amount of action in the 3rd game, against VMI. He again, did not play in the Pitt game, but then began to see consistent action. When Urban was injured against Maryland, Wilkins stepped into a starting role for 4 games, until Urban returned.
It was the Hoos matchup against the Yellow Jackets when Wilkins really broke out. He had 7 tackles and forced a fumble against the Wramblin Wreck. He is a good fit against the triple option, because he's very quick off the ball. The easiest way to stop the triple option is to beat the blocker into the backfield, to throw off the timing of the option play. Wilkins is a mauler, in the same style as Urban was. He's not the fleetest of the DTs on the roster, but he has a great burst to the ball. What his strength going forward will be is his ability to win the battle at the point of attack.
This year, the Hoos have a lot of depth at DT. Wilkins may well get a starting nod, especially since Andrew Brown has missed most of training camp with various injuries. Wilkins will get a lot of playing time on early downs, especially against teams that like to run the ball. Wilkins may be the best run defender on the team right now. But in passing situations, at least at this point, Wilkins has to come off. He simply doesn't have the speed to rush the passer, nor has he developed the pass rush moves. (As we've noted before, during passing situations, the defense will be in a nickel package with Mike Moore sliding to DT next to either Dean or Brown or Miles-Redmond. All three provide better pass rushing skills than Wilkins does right now.