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Virginia Football: Elliott adds nine preferred walk-ons, looking to add depth

Chris Graham
tony elliott
Photo: UVA Athletics

Virginia football coach Tony Elliott announced Thursday the addition of nine preferred walk-ons to the roster for the fall.

Before you dismiss the significance, I’m thinking, Patrick Jeffers, who walked on at UVA in the George Welsh era, caught nine passes as a freshman, then led the team in receptions twice before playing six years in the NFL, winning a Super Bowl.

I’d throw another Patrick, Patrick Kerney, in there as well. Kerney was recruited to Virginia to play lacrosse, which is a scary thought, that guy with a stick in his hand.

He went on to play defensive end for Welsh, recorded 24 sacks in three seasons, became a first-round draft pick, and would go on to win first-team All-Pro honors in 2007 during his 10-year NFL career.

Jeffers and Kerney are outliers, sure, but the point is, walk-ons, particularly the recruited walk-ons, at the least add depth, and some of them will play their way into the two-deep.

And if we get lucky, we get a starter.

Really lucky is another Jeffers or Kerney.

Anyway, these are the guys that Elliott has coming in this weekend.

Nana Appouh: 6-4, 300, DL, Herndon High School, Herndon, Va.

Played guard and nose tackle at Herndon High School for head coach Bill Bachman … helped lead the Hornets to their first winning season since 2008-09, going 6-5 … named to First Team Liberty All-District team …  named to second team all-region defensive line.

Rob Keys: 6-2, 200, LB, Westfield High School, Chantilly, Va.

Played middle linebacker and outside linebacker at Westfield High School for head coach Kyle Simmons … helped team to a 7-5 record as a senior … team reached second round of Class 6 playoffs … named to All-Region First Team (2022) … All-District Honorable Mention (2022) … also participated in track and field and lacrosse in high school … All-Region First Team and state qualifier in track and field … district champion in the boys 4×200 relay.

Andy Lutes: 6-4, 260, OL, Salem High School, Salem, Va.

Played offensive and defensive tackle at Salem High School for head coach Don Holter … 2020 4A state champion, going 10-0 on the season … served as team captain in his senior year … First Team River Edge District all-offense (2022) … son of Suzanne Moushegian and Nick Lutes … his mother attended UVA from 1990-94.

Claiborne Richards: 5-11, 175, WR, Montgomery Bell Academy, Nashville, Tenn.

Played wide receiver at Montgomery Bell Academy for head coach Marty Euverard … D2AAA All-State honoree (2022) … also played varsity basketball.

Hayden Rollison: 6-3, 230, TE, Collegiate School, Richmond, Va.

Played tight end and middle linebacker at Collegiate School for head coach Mark Palyo … VISAA all-conference honoree … first team all-state tight end honoree … second team all-state linebacker honoree … All-Metro honoree … served as team captain in his junior and senior season … also played varsity baseball … 2022 VISAA D1 Prep League baseball champion … served as baseball team captain in his senior season … son of Jantz and Bryan Rollison … his father played football at Hampden-Sydney College has three siblings, Brian, Christian, and Lily.

Elijah Silbeck: 6-5, 200, P/PK, Warren Central High School, Indianapolis, Ind.

Played punter/kicker at Warren Central High School for head coach Mike Kirschner … named Indiana Mr. Football Kicker of the Year in 2022, an award voted on by the Indiana Football Coaches Association … in his senior season, kicked four field goals with a long of 42 yards, averaged 41.3 yards on punts and went 25-for-26 on extra-point attempts … a Blue-Grey All-American … presented the 2023 Terry Courage Award by the Central Indiana Chapter of the National Football Foundation … named 2022 IFCA Academic All-State.

Gabe Sneed: 6-5, 250, DL, Union High School, Big Stone Gap, Va.

Played defensive end and tight end at Union High School for head coach Travis Turner … four-time all-district (2019-22) and three-time all-region (2020-22) honoree … also was a varsity track & field athlete in high school … all-district, all-region, and all-state honoree in discus and shot put (2022) … son of Amanda Sneed … has one older sibling, Aristin.

Dane Steele: 6-4, 285, OL, Covenant Day School, Charlotte, N.C.

Played offensive line at Covenant Day School for head coach Pete McSparin … named First Team NCISAA all-conference (2021-22) … named First Team NCISAA all-state (2022) … Covenant Day School offensive MVP (2022) … served as team captain in his senior year … also played varsity track & field and basketball … son of Gary and Laura Steele … his father played football at UVA from 1988-92 … has an older sister, Natalie.

Justin Stewart: 6-2, 220, DL, St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes, Alexandria, Va.

Played defensive end and offensive linebacker at St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School for head coach Vashon Winton … earned Second Team VISAA All-State honors (2021-22) … First Team All-IAC defense team (2021-22).

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].