Transfers will be a big part of UVa's plans during fall practice


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Jul 07, 2023

Transfers will be a big part of UVa's plans during fall practice

As all coaching staffs around the country must do in the modern era of college football, UVa’ scoured the transfer market in the offseason looking for roster additions to make an immediate impact. In

As all coaching staffs around the country must do in the modern era of college football, UVa’ scoured the transfer market in the offseason looking for roster additions to make an immediate impact. In total, the Cavaliers added a quarterback, a running back, a wide receiver, three offensive linemen, and three defensive backs from the portal, not counting another defensive back that came and went in the spring.

All nine of UVa’s incoming transfers will look to secure their playing time starting today with the start of fall practice, with several of them likely to be slotted in as starters right away.

In the portal, a school like Virginia can add players from all sorts of different backgrounds. And in this offseason, the Wahoos added players from schools competing for conference and national titles (Clemson) all the way down to non-scholarship FCS football (Dayton), and many places in between.

It can be difficult to evaluate roster and scheme fits, and in the portal, the recruiting period is very condensed, so there isn’t much time for relationship building.

At Friday’s media luncheon, UVa’s coaches were asked what they saw in those additions and gave some insight into the transfer recruiting process and how these mutual decisions occur so quickly.

Tony Muskett

UVa is expected to start Muskett at quarterback this fall, and no one player should have a bigger impact on how Virginia’s season will go than him.

Muskett comes to Charlottesville after three productive seasons at Monmouth, playing at the FCS level. QB coach Taylor Lamb and OC Des Kitchings explained what they liked from Muskett, how his recruitment came together, and why they didn’t fret about taking a quarterback from the FCS level.

“There’s good players everywhere, you see it in the NFL Draft; if you’re good enough they’re going to find you. Monmouth plays a really good brand of football. He’s played a lot of ball. He’ll going to see some different things this year, from stadium experiences to different defenses to different athletes. It’ll all be an adjustment and it’s a little different, but it’s 11-on-11.” - Lamb

“A couple of our coaches had known some of the guys on the Monmouth staff. So there was an understanding of what they’re doing schematically, offensively through the quarterback. And then when you watch him, the efficiencies of how he played the position, the efficiency of his drop, the efficiencies of him releasing and getting the ball out on time (stood out). Then when you starting doing other research when he went in the portal, a lot of things people talked about were his leadership capabilities and skills, and how great of a guy he was. And those are the traits we wanted in our quarterback; we want a guy that the fellas in the locker room want to bust their butt for this guy, because he’s such a great guy, a leader, encompassing of everyone on the team.”- Kitchings

“I had two live evals on him and he was really good in both of those games, unfortunately for us. It was a ‘hey this kid is in the portal, from the state of Virginia, and he’s played a lot of ball.’ That was one of the things we were looking for, guys that have played a lot of ball. We just didn’t want to get a Power-5 backup that hadn’t played a lot of ball. We wanted known abilities with playing football, and being a winner. He had those qualities. So when we jumped in he was our first visit, going out to see him and getting him on Grounds. Portal recruiting is totally different, just two weeks getting to know the kid. I had a lot of connections to the CAA, and the Big South, the conference we came from, that knew the kid.” - Lamb

Brian Stevens and Jimmy Christ

After adding Ugonna Nnanna from Houston earlier in the offseason, UVa added two more offensive linemen this spring in Dayton’s Stevens and Penn State’s Christ. The two additions come from very different levels of college football, and have very different levels of college football experience.

Christ played sparingly as a backup for the Nittany Lions, while Stevens was an all-conference performer at Dayton, starting plenty of games, though against non-scholarship competition.

New offensive line coach Terry Heffernan had to call on some connections to help him make a call on both players, having to project Stevens’ move up to ACC football, and Christ, who doesn’t have much game tape to evaluate.

“We want to produce a group that’s greater than the sum of our parts. And in talking to both of those guys, they’re great fits for our room from a maturity standpoint, from a personality type; they weren’t guys that were going to come in and upturn the apple cart with challenging personality types. And they brought experience. We’re a really young group so whenever we can bring in guys in, whether they’ve played 20 starts like Brian has, or practiced at Penn State and played in some games and played special teams like Jimmy has, that’s valuable time and experience in a college program and a college weight room. Being able to bring in people that fit our vision and Coach’s vision for this team and bring that experience is important to us.” - Heffernan

On Christ: “Frame eval is really important in o-line. You’re trying to project what the guy can become, and there’s less of that in a transfer, because they’re already 21 or 22 years old, it’s not a 17-year old junior you’re going to see. You’re looking at a little more of a finished product physically. And there’s some athletic traits you can get from their practice tape, like Ugonna and Jimmy, a lot of their eval was off of some of that stuff. You’re watching movement patterns, can this guy bend? Where’s his power? And to be honest, the more connections you have to people you trust in this transfer world, or you can call somebody that owes you a favor or was integral in your life. When Jimmy leaves Penn State, I can the guy that introduced me to my wife and say ‘tell me for real about this guy,’ and you’re going to trust the input you’re getting back.” - Heffernan

On Stevens: “From a production standpoint, Brian’s the highest rated PFF guard in the country. So that’s an incredible stat, but he’s also playing non-scholarship football. That’s going to scare a lot of people alway. For me it was the amount of connections that we had, and again, going back to really trusted sources where I can say ‘tell me very real about this guy and his projection to the ACC.’ And I talked to enough people that said if you can get this kid in your program, he’s going to raise the temperature of everything he does, he’s super strong and athletic, and yeah, he’s 6-foot-2 and plays non-scholarship football, but he’s going to a guy that can compete at your level.” - Heffernan

Malik Washington

Virginia’s receiver room has been through a lot in the past year and is a totally different group heading into the 2023 season, with a lot of player departures and a new position coach.

New WR coach Adam Mims inherits a receiver room that doesn’t have a lot of game experience but luckily the Hoos were able to go out and land a transfer that has played quite a bit of college football.

Washington comes to UVa from Northwestern after leading the Wildcats in receptions and receiving yards last year. Mims stressed that while adding Washington’s production is a big boost to the room, he’s making an even bigger impact in leading by example.

“He has been a tremendous, tremendous asset to our group, our offense, our team. He’s somebody who’s the consummate professional in everything that he does. Not just on the football field, but how he lives his life. And because of that, he’s seen the success that he’s seen. There is a direct correlation between how you live your life and your success on the football field. He’s seen a lot of success because of who he is as a person and how he was raised, and how he maneuvers day to day. If I had 15 Malik’s I’d be a very happy coach. He’s been great for our room, he’s given an older perspective that these guys can look up to. His leadership alone has been really good for us.” - Mims

Kobe Pace

UVa has a crowded running back room that brings everyone back from last season, and added a talented transfer from Clemson in Pace. He battled through some injuries in Death Valley and had quite a bit of talented competition for carries, but he’ll have a great chance to work himself into a rotation at UVa, at a minimum. Running backs coach Keith Gaither has been impressed with Pace, who he called a low-maintenance transfer, something he called rare, especially with players coming from big-time programs.

“He’s been a great addition. First and foremost, you bring a kid here from Clemson, he comes here knowing the culture he’s walking into. Understanding the values that Coach (Tony Elliott) wants from his program. He had a prior relationship with Coach Elliott, who recruited him. He basically came in and fit in. He came in and became one of the guys, which is rare. He came in and became one of the guys. He’s a talent; he’s still learning the offense. He brings the ability to score every time he touches the ball. He’s a complete running back with big-play ability, and he’s a great kid.” - Gaither

Sam Westfall and Malcolm Greene

Virginia added Iowa State cornerback Tayvonn Kyle in the winter and the transfer DB participated in spring practice. Defensive coordinator John Rudzinski was specifically asked about his two newest transfer additions, SMU cornerback Sam Westfall and Clemson DB Malcolm Greene, who join up for fall camp. Rudzinski praised the experience and athletic profile of his two newcomers, who can both make an impact on a cornerback room going through a bit of a makeover.

“On both of them, they’re both athletic. They’ve both played a lot of football. They’ve both shown great utility on special teams which is a huge component for our team’s success. And the other part was that they fit the culture of what it meant to be a student athlete at the University of Virginia. Guys that want to compete and guys that are talented physically like they are with some experience have a great opportunity to learn. I’m excited to see in one, two, three weeks, and six weeks into the season, the type of progress they’ll make as we move forward.” - Rudzinski