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Three ODU players taken in 2023 NFL Draft: UVA, VT, Liberty get one each

Chris Graham
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How far have the football programs at Virginia and Virginia Tech fallen? Each of the state’s ACC schools had just one player selected in the 2023 NFL Draft, while ODU, a member of the Sun Belt, which finished 3-9 last season, had three.

ODU offensive lineman Nick Saldiveri was the first player taken on Saturday to begin the fourth round (103rd overall) by the New Orleans Saints. Cornerback Tre Hawkins went in the sixth round (209th overall) to the New York Giants, and tight end Zack Kuntz was selected in the seventh round (220th overall) by the New York Jets.

Virginia Tech safety Chamarri Conner went in the fourth round (119th overall) to the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.

The only Virginia player taken was wideout Dontayvion Wicks, who went in the fifth round (159th overall) to the Green Bay Packers.

Liberty also had one player selected – wideout Demario Douglas, who went in the sixth round (210th overall) to the New England Patriots.

Saldiveri (2022 Pro Football Focus grade: 72.2) was a three-year starter at right tackle for Old Dominion.

In 2022, the 6’6”, 318-pounder allowed 18 QB pressures (0 sacks) on 434 pass dropbacks.

Hawkins (2022 PFF grade: 78.3) allowed 33 receptions on 54 targets in 2022, with two INTs, three pass breakups and an NFL passer rating against of 96.8.

Kuntz (2022 PFF grade: 69.5), a transfer from Penn State, had his 2022 season cut short by injury. The 6’7”, 255-pound big-body target had six catches on 10 targets for 83 yards in ODU’s narrow 17-16 loss at UVA in September, and in 2021, he had 73 catches on 112 targets for 692 yards, five TDs and a PFF grade of 77.5.

Conner (2022 PFF grade: 65.0), a 6’0”, 202-pounder, was a four-year starter at Virginia Tech, racking up 314 tackles, 21 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and four interceptions in his career.

Conner was a two-time All-ACC selection and finished 10th all-time in career tackles in school history.

Douglas (2022 PFF grade: 83.5) is a speedy slot receiver who had 76 catches on 112 targets for 996 yards and six TDs in 2022 for Liberty.

He’s also a potential contributor on special teams. At Liberty, he had two career punt-return TDs.

The lone UVA player was Wicks (2022 PFF grade: 59.0), who overcame a subpar 2022 in which he had just 30 catches on 72 targets for 430 yards, a year after putting up big numbers – 57 catches on 93 targets for 1,201 yards in 2021.

One former ‘Hoo, Olusegun Oluwatimi, a center who transferred to Michigan after the 2021 season, and went on to win both the Rimington Trophy and the Outland Trophy, went surprisingly low, in the fifth round, with the 154th pick, to the Seattle Seahawks.

Oluwatimi, a three-year starter at Virginia, was the sixth center selected in the 2023 draft class.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham, the king of "fringe media," is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].