UVA Football News and Notes: Walker appeal, Smiley returns, Faumui opts out, plus-one

uva footballThe news on the status of the appeal of the NCAA’s decision to not grant UVA tailback transfer Ronnie Walker immediate eligibility is that there is no news.

“We’re still in the process, and we will be for 30 days. So, I won’t be able to give you a final answer until at the end of that. We’re going to work hard all the way to the very end and exhaust every chance in that process,” UVA coach Bronco Mendenhall said in a video conference with reporters on Thursday.

Walker appeared in 22 games at Indiana in 2018 and 2019, gaining 221 yards on 59 carries and adding 112 yards on 12 catches through the air, with three total touchdowns.

A two-time all-state selection at Hopewell High, Walker rushed for 1,344 yards on 216 carries with 19 touchdowns as a senior in 2017 as he led his team to a state title.

As a junior in 2016, Walker rushed for 2,011 yards on 250 carries and 25 touchdowns in 14 games.

His addition for 2020 would beef up an otherwise thin backfield that for now features junior Wayne Taulapapa and Towson grad transfer Shane Simpson, a 2018 FCS All-American who is coming off a knee injury that ended what would have been his redshirt senior season in 2019.

Smiley returns, Faumui opts out

The defensive line rotation got some good news and bad news. The good news is redshirt freshman Ben Smiley is back after initially deciding to sit out the 2020 season.

The other news: junior defensive tackle Aaron Faumui has decided to opt out for 2020.

Faumui made five starts at defensive tackle in 2019, and finished with 33 tackles, four sacks and five quarterback hurries.

“When you have experienced players that have started games and contributed at a high level, anytime they’re not with you, much like they would be lost to an injury, certainly that’s difficult. But again, every player on our team has the absolute choice in this setting. And that’s what I believe in,” Mendenhall said.

Faumui is one of four UVA players to opt out for the 2020 season. Also sitting out the season will be sophomore defensive back Tenyeh Dixon, redshirt freshman wide receiver Dorian Goddard, and sophomore running back Mike Hollins.

Plus-one

Mendenhall made it known that he’d prefer to play 10 games rather than 11 this season, but that the final decision on that point is out of his hands.

“I think 10 is safer than 11 in terms of games. Andthat’s just a matter of fact statement,” Mendenhall said. “It’s been made pretty clear to me that the ACC would like us to have a plus-one. And so there are options being pursued. And, yeah, we could announce a plus-one. That’s in the works. But if you’re asking me what I would like to do, 10 is safer than 11.”

UVA had been slated to open its season on Sept. 11 with a home game against VMI, but that game got canceled when VMI shuttered its fall season in line with a decision by the Southern Conference.

That weekend is still open on the schedule, as is the weekend of Sept. 26 and the weekend of Nov. 21.

Story by Chris Graham


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