Mendenhall announces players leaving program; running back depth in question

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Lamont Atkins (5) and PK Kier (6) get ready to whoop it up after Atkins’ second-quarter touchdown run against Liberty (Photo by John Markon).

Bronco Mendenhall announced Thursday morning that several players have left the Virginia football program since the Cavaliers’ appearance in the Orange Bowl.

Freshman running back Seneca Milledge (Fort Myers, Fla.), and freshman defensive back Major Williams (also Fort Myers), have entered the transfer portal, while freshman quarterback R.J. Harvey (Orlando, Fla.) and freshman offensive tackle Ja’Quay Hubbard (Sharpsville, Pa.) are both transferring to a junior-college program.

Meanwhile, junior running back Lamont Atkins (Burke, Va.) has elected to end his football career, intends to graduate and has an internship lined up in San Antonio. Another running back, junior PK Kier (Winchester) has left the program and will graduate.

Evan Clark, a walk-on linebacker, has left the program to focus on academics, as has Andrew Spaziani.

Had Virginia spring football practice started as scheduled, several players would have been out for its entirity due to rehab.

Offensive tackle Bobby Haskins (sophomore), offensive tackle Ryan Nelson (sophomore) and guard Dillon Reinkensmeyer (junior), along with receiver Nathaniel Beale, would have missed the spring on the offensive side of the ball.

Defensively, redshirt freshman defensive back Jaylon Baker, junior free safety Joey Blount, junior cornerback Darrius Bratton and freshman defensive back Antonio Clary would have all been out for the spring, along with inside linebacker T.C. Harrison (redshirt freshman) and outside linebacker Hunter Stewart (freshman).

Also junior place-kicker Brian Delaney would have missed the spring drills.

Players who would have had limited or no contact included junior safety De’Vante Cross, junior safety Brenton Nelson, sophomore center Olu Oluwatimi, junior linebacker Rob Snyder and redshirt long-snapper Tucker Finkelston.

With Kier and Atkins leaving the program, the Cavaliers lack depth at the running-back spot. Wayne Taulapapa, a rising junior, started the majority of the 2019 season, while rising sophomore Mike Hollins played sparingly.

While graduated quarterback Bryce Perkins led the team in rushing with more than 1,000 yards, Taulapapa got the bulk of the carries from the running-back spot. Hollins has been projected as a player who could push Taulapapa for playing time in 2020.

Mendenhall said there is a possibility that Virginia will add a graduate-transfer running back, possibly with two years of eligibility remaining.

Without Kier, Atkins and speedster Milledge, UVA’s backfield depth was shortened considerably.

“Certainly the depth was hit right off the bat and that was my first concern,” Mendenhall said. “It’s certainly more fun to play than watch. With both Taulapapa and Hollins returning, we have been only effected in depth, not only in depth at running back, but in depth on special teams.

“In terms of the players playing in the game at running back, that really hasn’t changed much. In terms of our players playing on special teams, that has changed significantly.”


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