UVA makes cut for pair of 4-star defensive linemen, plus a Florida tight end

By Jerry Ratcliffe

A pair of 4-star defensive linemen have kept Virginia on their final lists of programs, while the son of a former Cavalier star dropped by Charlottesville last Saturday to check things out.

Joel Starlings, a 4-star from Richmond’s Benedictine Prep, told On3.com that he has narrowed his list from 11 to five schools: Virginia, Oklahoma, North Carolina, South Carolina and West Virginia. Starlings, aka “Grim Reaper,” is a 6-foot-5, 310-pound standout, ranked as the nation’s No. 32 defensive lineman and the No. 4 prospect in the state of Virginia for the Class of 2023 by On3.

He cut the following schools off his final list: Virginia Tech, Florida State, Georgia, Penn State, Texas A&M and Wisconsin. Starlings, who was committed to Michigan until Wolverines defensive line coach Shaun Nua left for Southern Cal after last season, has scheduled visits to UNC (May 20-22) and West Virginia (June 3-5).

Meanwhile, James Heard, a 4-star pass rusher from Philadelphia’s St. Joseph’s School, has cut his list of schools to four: Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia.

Heard, also a member of the Class of ‘23, has visited Tennessee and has a visit scheduled for West Virginia (June 3-5). He plans to visit both UVA and Kentucky in May.

Heard told Rivals’ Adam Friedman that he likes what new Virginia defensive ends coach Chris Slade told him about how Tony Elliott plans to build the program. Slade, a key figure in his recruitment, was a premiere pass rusher at Virginia and in the NFL. Slade still holds the ACC record for career sacks, a mark that has stood for three decades.

Former UVA star running back Terry Kirby, who played with Slade for the Cavaliers in the late 1980s-early 1990s, was in Charlottesville for the program’s spring game last weekend and brought his son, TeKai, for an unofficial visit.

TeKai Kirby is a 6-4, 220-pound tight end who plays for St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where his father Terry owns a gym. Tekai, a junior, runs a 4.6 in the 40-yard dash and bench presses 300 pounds.

Photo: twitter.com/TeKai_Kirby