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Wayne Taulapapa enters transfer portal: Impact on Virginia backfield

wayne taulapapa
Wayne Taulapapa. Photo courtesy UVA Athletics.

You’ve read that Wayne Taulapapa, who entered the transfer portal on Thursday, was Virginia’s leading rusher in 2021, but that’s only true because of the way the NCAA treats sack yardage.

Brennan Armstrong was Virginia’s leading rusher with 486 yards gained. Sack yardage ate 198 yards off the total.

The NCAA counts sack yards as rushing yards when it shouldn’t.

A real-world accounting would have Taulapapa a distant second on the roster with 324 yards rushing.

Taulapapa’s value in Robert Anae’s scheme was as a blocking back. He was Anae’s tailback of choice in particular in passing situations, with a 96.7 percent pass-block percentage and a 71.2 Pro Football Focus grade in pass blocking in 2021.

For a featured back, he sure didn’t get his hands on the ball an awful lot – a total of 265 rushing attempts and 36 targets as a receiver out of the backfield in three seasons.

Weigh that against the 282 pass blocks he logged over his three years in the backfield.

You see what Taulapapa’s value was.

Don’t be surprised if he doesn’t follow Anae to Syracuse, honestly.

As far as Virginia is concerned, expect to see Tony Elliott use his tailbacks the way he used Travis Etienne at Clemson, you know, to actually run the ball, and catch it out of the backfield on screens and wheel routes.

Elliott will effort to get as close to a 50-50 balance out of his play-calling as he can, which will mean more totes for the TBs.

For the moment, at least, Elliott can build around redshirt junior Mike Hollins, who has 325 yards in limited usage (70 carries) over two seasons, redshirt senior Ronnie Walker Jr., who got just five rushing attempts in 2021, and redshirt freshman Amaad Foston, a Georgia prep whose high-school numbers eclipsed names like Herschel Walker and Nick Chubb in the record books.

Remember when Bronco Mendenhall said in the spring and then repeated in August camp that he thought he had his best stable of running backs in his six years at Virginia heading into last season?

Anae didn’t use them – the backs got 148 carries in 2021, 12.3 attempts per game, less than the QBs.

We’re losing the best blocker among them.

Story by Chris Graham

augusta free press
augusta free press