Walker, UVA appeal eligibility status as Wahoos minus potential key running back

By Jerry Ratcliffe

(Photo: UVA Athletics)

When Bronco Mendenhall revealed Friday that sophomore running back Mike Hollins is currently not in Virginia’s training camp, that news immediately turned fans’ attention to the Ronnie Walker, Jr. situation.

While Wayne Taulapapa returns as the Cavaliers’ starting running back, most expected Hollins to serve as backup at the very least, if not challenge for playing time, even though we all know Mendenhall prefers that one back gets the bulk of carries. With Hollins having not reported (he could still rejoin the team), his absence leaves UVA shy on experienced depth at the position.

Only four other players are listed at running back on the Cavaliers preseason roster. Perris Jones is a sophomore, joined by freshman Chris Barfield. Neither have college experience at the spot. Shane Simpson, a consensus 2018 FCS All-American at Towson State, transferred to UVA a few weeks ago and is eligible immediately as a graduate transfer.

That brings us to Walker, who transferred to Virginia from Indiana, and has two years of eligibility remaining. The Hopewell native’s request for immediate eligibility was denied by the NCAA and UVA is awaiting news on an appeal to the decision.

“I’m not sure how the waivers are even considered and not sure why it was denied, don’t agree with it,” Mendenhall said. “Hopefully the appeal will work in his favor, in our favor, which would be fair.”

The NCAA’s decision on Walker’s request for immediate eligibility is somewhat confusing, particularly after several other transfers around the country have been granted approval, including former Alabama quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa’s move to Maryland.

He is the younger brother of former Alabama starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, and has been granted immediate eligibility to play for the Terrapins, now coached by former ‘Bama assistant coach Mike Locksley.

The Alabama transfer was assisted in his eligibility request by attorney John Long.

Walker is a 5-foot-10, 210-pound running back who played in 22 games at Indiana and was a favorite on third-down plays last season when the Hoosiers went 8-5. Moved to third on the depth chart, Walker decided to transfer closer to home.

During his first two seasons for Indiana, Walker had 59 rushing attempts for 221 yards and two touchdowns. He also hauled in a dozen passes for 112 yards and a TD, and was a dependable pass protector in the backfield.

Walker was somewhat of a high school legend growing up in Hopewell when he rushed for 1,344 yards (6.2 average) with 19 touchdowns his senior season. He rushed for 2,011 yards (8.0 ypc) and 25 TDs as a junior in 14 games.

He was selected as a two-time all-state player and led Hopewell to the 2017 state title in his school’s division.

We will feature transfer running back Shane Simpson on Sunday.


  1. houstonhoo says:

    Jerry–love your site and am glad you are still covering the ‘Hoos.

    The disparity of the Walker and Taulia waiver results seems to be a sign that the NCAA going is going all-out to protect the Cancel Conferences from losing players to the conferences that are letting the kids play. Thus, a waiver was granted to let an SEC player go to the Big 10, but denied for a Big 10 player coming to the ACC. Even though Walker put in his transfer request long before the Big 10 decided to pull the plug on its season.

  2. Jerry Ratcliffe says:

    Thank you for your readership. Means a lot. If the NCAA is playing favorites, it’s just another reason to disband and start all over again.

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