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Virginia running backs coming on strong in the midseason

The Harvard transfer had his best game of the season against Duke, emphasizing the depth UVA has in its backfield.

NCAA Football: Duke at Virginia Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

As the Virginia Cavaliers’ receiving core has been a consistent topic of conversation since the Wahoo passing attack has been near unstoppable all season long, the depth in the backfield is starting to show itself midway through the season.

While there was a lack in production and reliance on the running backs early on, there’s been an increase in touches for those guys of late. As guys like Mike Hollins and Wayne Taulapapa have missed time, others have started to get opportunities to impress. Against Duke, it was Devin Darrington who impressed late in the game with five carries for 60 yards including a big 34-yarder and a touchdown.

“It’s been the deepest position from the beginning of the season,” says Bronco Mendenhall, “and it’s really to play five running backs. But man, they’ve been really close from the very very beginning, not only Wayne [Taulapapa] and Michael [Hollins] but then Devin [Darrington] and Ronnie [Walker].”

He continues, saying that “it’s a good situation to be in for us,” noting how “we’ve already seen not all four are healthy any given week, and sometimes only two.” Fortunately though, “there’s very little drop-off regardless of who goes in. You hardly notice, and that’s a great position to be in for us.”

Specifically speaking on Darrington — who had his most productive performance of the season on Saturday — Mendenhall says that even in the process of recruiting the former Harvard running back, he noticed “productivity and toughness and physicality,” which were “the same things that we saw in the runs that he had on Saturday. He’s tough and he’s physical and he’s productive.”

He notes how “anytime a player arrives, especially if they don’t arrive mid-year as a grad transfer, it’s tough to get up to speed and within the scheme and adjusted and execution sound, especially it there’s competition early season.” So, Mendenhall emphasizes that he feels that “Devin is just coming into his own,” adding that “the capability has always been there, it’s just getting adjusted and having the opportunities and earning the opportunities.”

“But man,” Mendenhall says, “he ran really well on Saturday.”

Considering how Darrington has stepped up to fill in roles elsewhere on the field — including special teams — when he wasn’t getting carries, Mendenhall notes how that “means he’s a great fit at UVA,” as he says that “I have a basic principle that when a graduate transfer is being considered, I have to like him, and like him means unselfish. [Devin] certainly is, but he’s also fiercely competitive and has high standards for himself, so he’s been a great fit so far.”

As for Darrington’s seven-yard touchdown run on Saturday, Mendenhall says that “it was one of my favorite plays of the year,” adding that considering how Darrington has a “Harvard education with a UVA education with touchdown carries, that’s a good spot to be in.”