On October 26, 2014, The Kettle Run High School football team made big play after big play in a dominating win over Brentsville. Out of all of the offensive highlights however, one special teams play stood out among the rest. Following yet another failed Brentsville drive, the Tigers booted a deep punt towards Kettle Run return man and UVa commit David Eldrige.
The Cougars did not secure their blocks, and it looked as though Kettle Run would have poor starting field position.
Eldridge had other ideas.
The explosive senior fielded the punt in deep traffic and weaved in and out of tacklers for an 84-yard touchdown.
That is exactly what Virginia is getting with the six-foot-one, 165 pound Eldridge.
Eldridge set 16 school records in his three years with the Kettle Run football program, scoring touchdowns in just about everywhere imaginable. The All-State return man was a standout player in all three phases of the game, and will play wide receiver for the Cavaliers. Rated as one of the top-100 receivers in the class of 2015 by Rivals.com, Eldridge is the prototypical deep threat, who can take the top off of opposing defenses.
After running a "4.4" 40 at several camps prior to his senior year, Eldridge was a hot commodity on the recruiting trail. Eldridge had his options, and could have certainly picked up more offers, but decided to select the Wahoos early on. The Kettle Run standout has improved his game throughout his three years playing varsity football, and if the trend continues, Eldridge will be fun to watch during time in Charlottesville.
Let's take a closer look at this speedy receiver.
Name: David Eldridge III
High School: Kettle Run (Nokesville VA)
Ranking: Rivals/247/ESPN 3-star
Starting experience: Three years
Recognition: As a senior- First-team All-Region selection as a wide receiver and punt returner, First-team All-State selection as a returner, Second-team as a receiver. As a junior- First-team All-state selection as a return specialist. Second-team All-Region honoree as a receiver and punt returner.
While Eldridge is renowned for his speed, the former three-star recruit has improved tremendously as a route runner. Eldridge has a terrific burst off of the line scrimmage, and has the acceleration to beat opposing defensive backs in a foot race.
Eldridge is an aggressive wide receiver, and has the unique ability to make catches away from his body. The multidimensional athlete can track the ball with his eyes, and has the speed to be a quarterback's number-one option downfield. Whether he was playing offense, defense, or special teams, Eldridge rarely dropped the ball while at Kettle Run. Once his route running catches up to his hands and top speed, Eldridge could be quite a weapon for the Virginia offense.
While he will get there as a wide receiver at the college, level, his first chance to shine could be on special teams in the return game. Take a look at the 1:23 mark in the video above. Eldridge appears to be swallowed up by the opposing coverage team, but he uses his illusiveness to get away, and turn what looked to be a loss into a 50-plus-yard touchdown.
Eldridge will probably redshirt this fall, but the rookie from Kettle Run is making that decision difficult on the coaching staff. The former All-state performer has asserted himself early in August training camp, and has at least looked the part in the first few days of practice. Due to several injuries at wide receiver, Eldridge has earned more reps than anticipated, but the first year WR has not disappointed.
While Darius Jennings leaves a huge void as the team's deep threat, the Hoos will be able to fill his shoes with UNC transfer T.J. Thrope. After Thrope graduates however, Virginia will be looking for another speed receiver to compliment the bigger wide outs on the roster. After a year of adding bulk and learning the offensive scheme, Eldridge should be ready to contribute in 2016.
Thrope's departure following this season also leaves the door open for Eldridge at punt returner. While he will have plenty of competition for the job, very few "applicants" will boast Eldridge's special teams credentials and eye-opening highlights.