UVA starting center Stevens will return for next season

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Photo: UVA Athletics

There was a lot of celebrating at the McCue Center, headquarters for Virginia football on Wednesday. Most of the cheers were for the 18-man recruiting class that signed with the program, but there was also rejoicing for one Cavalier player who decided to stay.

Brian Stevens, who started off the season at guard but then moved to center for the remainder of the campaign, announced he was returning to UVA for his final year of eligibility. Stevens, a 6-foot-2, 296-pound grad student, came to Virginia last season after entering the transfer portal from Dayton.

“Unfinished Business,” Stevens wrote on his Twitter while announcing his return.

Virginia offensive line coach Terry Heffernan was fired up about Stevens’ decision.

“Yeah, if you talk about excitement going forward in our group, I think I’d be remiss without starting with the guys who chose to come back,” Heffernan said Wednesday. “I return every single start from a year ago in that room and it’s a group that believes in themselves.”

Virginia will return starting left tackle McKale Boley, starting left guard Noah Josey, Stevens (starting center), starting right guard Ty Furnish, starting right tackle Blake Steen and Ugonna Nnanna, who had starts at right guard and tackle during the season.

“That’s huge and just a great credit to [Stevens] and the ability of the staff to evaluate,” head coach Tony Elliott said in response to the news. “Here’s a guy that was a non-scholarship guy at Dayton that comes in and he’s honorable mention All-ACC. Really what you saw is when he took over at center, it kind of just had a calming effect on the offense and kind of stabilized it, and really that’s where you’ve got to be strong, is at your center and at your quarterback position.”

Elliott said that Stevens’ poise helped freshman quarterback Anthony Colandrea stay collected during the season.

“So that’s huge,” Elliott said. “He brings a ton of leadership, ton of experience. We’re so excited to have him back. It’s kind of crazy when you’ve got signing day, but sometimes you’re celebrating just the guys staying on your roster. So that was huge for us as a program.”

Stevens posted the fourth-highest Pro Football Focus grade (77.3) for all centers nationally in FBS football and was the top-graded, run-blocking center in the ACC. He allowed only one sack in 476 snaps (PFF).

Prior to coming to Virginia last season, Stevens was a co-captain at Dayton in 2022 and a first-team All-Pioneer League member.