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Which UVA players would be the most sought after if they were on the transfer portal?

Chris Graham
uva football
Photo: UVA Athletics

Virginia Football is now officially in the silly season, with Saturday’s 55-17 loss to Virginia Tech putting the 2023 season to a wrap with a 3-9 finish.

Before the ugly loss to the rival, Virginia had gone 3-3 over a six-game stretch that included wins over North Carolina (which finished 8-4) and Duke (which finished 7-5), and a narrow loss at Louisville (which finished 10-2, and will play Florida State in the ACC Championship Game on Saturday).

There are obvious holes that need to be filled in the offseason – looking at you, O line, which gave up six sacks and a total of 20 pressures to the Hokies front on Saturday.

But there’s also plenty to build around – Kam Robinson, the precocious outside linebacker being the one you’d want to clone, if you could.

This article has a super short shelf life.

I’m writing at about 9:30 p.m. ET Monday night. There are kids all over the country filling out their paperwork as I write.

How many of them are in dorms and apartments in the vicinity of Charlottesville?

Top retention target: Kam Robinson

Robinson, a 6’2”, 227-pound four-star recruit from the Class of 2023, was the best player on the 2023 UVA defense as a true freshman, getting 474 snaps at outside linebacker, with 71 tackles, 10 QB pressures, one sack, and a 58.6 NFL passer rating against on his 238 pass-coverage snaps.

Dude is a swiss-army knife – able to rush the passer, stop the run, and be an asset in coverage.

His NIL value is through the roof – as a kid with those numbers on the field, and then you factor in that he was able to earn admission into UVA.

Robinson can transfer anywhere, and I’d imagine there’d be any number of SEC and Big Ten schools lining up if he were to hit the portal.

Top retention target 1-A: Jonas Sanker

Sanker, a 6’1”, 210-pound safety, led Virginia with 107 tackles and 11 pass breakups, and his 76.8 Pro Football Focus season grade was the tops on the UVA defensive unit in 2023.

He was on the field for a unit-high 834 snaps – a reminder of the adage about the greatest ability being availability.

There’s a lot to like about Sanker, who has two years of eligibility left.

He would have offers from all over if he were to hit the portal.

Top retention target 1-B: Malachi Fields

Fields is big (6’4”, 220), has good speed for a big receiver, and decent hands (five drops on 100 targets in 2023).

And he’s productive: 58 catches on those 100 targets, 811 yards, five TDs.

Fields has an NFL body, and could fetch decent NIL money based on his vitals and his counting numbers from 2023.

With grad transfer Malik Washington (110 catches, 1,426 yards, nine TDs) having exhausted his eligibility, Fields becomes the WR1 for whoever is the offensive coordinator next year.

He has to be the top priority retention-wise on the offensive side of the ball.

Would be surprised if he were to leave: Anthony Colandrea

Colandrea, technically the backup, though he started six games, and played all but one series of a seventh, would get offers if he were to hit the portal.

The true freshman passed for 1.958 yards and 13 TDs, with a 139.6 passer rating, and gained 225 yards on the ground – basically running for his life behind a makeshift O line that got better as the season played out, but still wasn’t ACC-quality.

His numbers and game tape would get him offers if he were to hit the portal, but his value is diminished by the same numbers that landed him at UVA in the first place – those numbers being 5’11”, 180.

If all he wants is a change of scenery, Colandrea could hit the portal and get offers from a run of mid-tier Power 4s and top-tier Group of 5s.

I don’t sense Colandrea, not yet, being the kind of guy who would command even a decent amount of money via NIL.

His best bet is almost certainly staying at UVA and developing, and continuing his progress toward a UVA degree while making himself into the best college QB he can be.

Names to watch:

  • Freshman cornerback Dre Walker: 63.5 PFF grade, 269 snaps, 54.3 NFL passer rating against, three years of eligibility remaining
  • Sophomore left tackle McKale Boley: 63.1 PFF grade, 16 QB pressures/2 sacks on 496 pass-block dropbacks
  • Senior outside linebacker Chico Bennett Jr.: 59.3 PFF grade, 556 snaps, 34 tackles, 28 QB pressures, one year of eligibility remaining
  • Freshman right tackle Blake Steen: 55.9 PFF grade, 16 pressures/5 sacks on 262 pass dropbacks, three years of eligibility remaining


Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham 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].