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Looking at Virginia football’s scholarship picture for 2020

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How the new signing class affects roster balance and numbers

NCAA Football: Orange Bowl-Florida vs Virginia Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Wednesday was the beginning of the final period for 2020 football recruits to sign their letters of intent, and the Virginia Cavaliers closed out their class with two late additions.

UVA added 15 players, headlined by national top-100 commit Andrew Gentry. Varina defensive end Lorenz Terry also committed to the Hoos but will attend Fork Union Military Academy for a post-graduate season before joining the program in 2021. Gentry’s two-year LDS mission will put him on Grounds in 2022.

There was also movement of players departing the program as the recruiting cycle drew to a close. Running backs Lamont Atkins and PK Kier are no longer on the 2020 roster, and defensive lineman Isaac Buell medically retired as well. These February movements followed two earlier departures: defensive back Germane Crowell also was forced to medically retire from football, and defensive back/linebacker Chris Moore appears to be transferring out.

Here is how the remaining and incoming players shake out for the 2020 roster:

2020 UVA Football Roster Breakdown

Position Final year 2 years 3 years 4 years TOTAL: 2+ Position
Position Final year 2 years 3 years 4 years TOTAL: 2+ Position
QB Stone Armstrong Harvey; Wentz; Armstead 5 QB
Big Back Peacock Yavinsky 1 Big Back
Lead Back Taulapapa Jones; Hollins 3 Lead Back
OWR Jana Wicks Goddard; Beal; Davis 4 OWR
IWR Kelly Obasi 2 IWR
HBack Kemp Milledge 2 HBack
TE Misch Rawlings 2 TE
OL Glaser Fannin; Haskins Bissinger Al Soufi; Johnson 5 OL
OL Reinkensmeyer Oluwatimi; Christ Devine Teter 4 OL
OL Swoboda Mariteragi Leech 3 OL
OL Gellerstedt Vollmer Weisz 2 OL
OL Nelson Hubbard 2 OL
DE Burney (med?) Reed Smiley; Malani 3 DE
DE Alonso Faumui Agunloye 2 DE
DT/NT Redmond; Briggs Carter 3 DT/NT
ILB Snyder Jackson Ahern 2 ILB
ILB Zandier Harrison Stewart 2 ILB
OLB Snowden; Gahm Taylor Satiu Horton; Brady 4 OLB
OLB Brown Perry; Williams 2 OLB
CB Grant Smith; Pratt Baker Cypress; Herard 5 CB
CB Bratton Dixon Williams 3 CB
S Nelson; Cross White Chalmers; Gaines 3 S
S Blount Clary Johnson 2 S
K Delaney Mejia Pearson 2 K
P Griffin Duenkel 1 P
TOTAL 18 18 21 30 87 69
SCHOLARSHIP 17 16 19 30 82 66
Final year 2 years 3 years 4 years TOTAL TOTAL: 2+

Players are generally listed here by the position they are assigned on the VirginiaSports.com roster. Names in italics indicate non-scholarship players; Micah Mariteragi is also on an LDS mission, and Nash Griffin’s scholarship from 2019 may not roll over to 2020.

Some observations and predictions:

  • The speed/ball-handling positions on offense are looking pretty thin. There is almost no room for error or injury with the roster as currently constructed. Adding a graduate (or other immediately eligible) transfer at wide receiver would allow the talented-but-unproven young players more time to develop, without relying solely on Terrell Jana.
  • Same goes for running back. Coach Mendenhall has decried implementing a running-back-by-committee approach, but even a bellcow needs a breather. Mike Hollins had some ball security issues at times in his debut season (while also flashing signs of future brilliance), and Perris Jones has zero career carries. With no running backs in the incoming class, the transfer market could be a necessary route. Even a sit-one, play-two player could benefit the team by adding a practice body and an immediate injection of experienced depth for 2021.
  • The tight end group is pretty thin as well, but that is a group utilized far less in the past few years. A walk-on could also help give the group some more depth.
  • While RJ Harvey and Luke Wentz are still listed at quarterback, expect the coaching staff to find other ways to get them involved in the offense. Wentz cross-trained as a wide receiver and Harvey could take some snaps at running back (especially as a pass-catcher). However...
  • This team needs an experienced dual-threat quarterback to compete with Brennan Armstrong for the starting position. Lindell Stone has been, by all accounts, an excellent teammate and mentor to younger players, but his skill set does not match what the rest of the offense is built to do. Armstrong is the presumptive starter, so a blue-chip guy or accomplished Power Five starter probably won’t look at Virginia as an attractive transfer destination. But an FCS or Group of Five player may be willing to gamble on himself and come compete. We saw how Robert Anae called plays when he didn’t have Armstrong available in case Perkins got hurt; without adding someone behind Armstrong, the 2020 offense will be playing with a restrictor plate on.

If we’ve gotten the scholarship math right—always a dubious proposition but we’re feeling good about this one—then Virginia is sitting on three available scholarships. Conveniently, that would be just enough for one transfer each at quarterback, wide receiver, and running back. Any further attrition (perhaps after spring ball as position battles start to shake out) will also open up spots either for transfers or to reward walk-on contributors.