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Virginia football loses three players from 2019 roster

Two running backs and one defensive lineman depart Cavalier program on eve of 2020 signing day

Liberty v Virginia Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images

The 2020 football roster for the Virginia Cavaliers went live this week on, and there are three names missing from 2019 players expected to return.

Running backs Lamont Atkins and PK Kier are no longer listed, and neither is defensive lineman Isaac Buell. All three players were part of UVA’s 2017 signing class. Atkins and Kier each have one year of eligibility remaining, while Buell has two.

Atkins and Kier both appeared in all 40 of the Cavaliers’ games during their tenure on grounds, with Atkins making 7 starts in that time. Both running backs saw most of their action on special teams as true freshmen before developing into different complementary roles in the backfield in 2018 and 2019: Atkins primarily as a receiving and change-of-pace back, while Kier played more in short-yardage situations.

Buell did not see the field in his time at Virginia and only earned a jersey number in one of his three seasons.

There is no public statement yet from the University or the players about their future plans.

The departure of Atkins and Kier leaves five running backs on UVA’s roster: junior tailback Wayne Taulapapa, junior H-back Billy Kemp, sophomores Mike Hollins and Perris Jones, and redshirt freshman Seneca Milledge. Jamari Peacock and Andrew Yavinsky are both listed as fullbacks, as well. None of UVA’s commits in the class of 2020 were recruited as running backs.

Taulapapa started 11 games in 2019 and was UVA’s second leading rusher behind Bryce Perkins; Taulapapa registered 473 yards on 116 carries, and notched 12 touchdowns to boot. Outside of Taulapape, Virginia’s returning running back quartet has combined career totals of 23 rushing attempts (21 for Hollins, 2 for Kemp) for 119 yards, plus 35 receptions (all Kemp) for 289 yards and 1 touchdown.

Options for additional depth could include moving dual-threat quarterback RJ Harvey—a redshirt freshman—to running back. Harvey is a dynamic runner but only 5-foot-8, and the arrival of true freshman Ira Armstead as a mid-year enrollee gives the coaching staff some flexibility on how to involve Harvey in the offense.