In the second half of Saturday’s win at Pitt, Virginia cornerback Bryce Hall showed once again why NFL scouts are going to flock to whatever stadium he’s in this season.
After not seeing many passes come his way for much of the game, the Panthers finally got him on a double move in the fourth quarter.
Or so they thought.
Hall was initially beat on the move, but by the time the pass got to its intended receiver, he covered the almost 10 yards of separation the wide out created and got there just in time to break up the pass. It was his only pass breakup of the game, and it was reminiscent of a moment last season when a Miami player was streaking free toward the end zone only to see Hall come out of nowhere to run him down and save the touchdown.
As much as his length and ball skills, Hall’s ability to adjust to a route and quickly close the distance after getting beat is what has many believing he is a lock to be a first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
The Taulapapa show
One of the major concerns heading into Saturday’s opener was who was going to fill Jordan Ellis’ shoes and carry the load on the ground? The answer—and this should come as a shock to no one—turned out to be quarterback Bryce Perkins, who ran the ball a game-high 18 times.
But after Perkins, it was sophomore Wayne Taulapapa who toted the rock most for the Cavaliers. He carried the ball 10 times for a game-high 66 yards (an average of 6.6 yards per carry). On Virginia’s final drive, he scored the first rushing touchdown of his collegiate career from 10 yards out.
One of the things that endeared Taulapapa most to Virginia football coach Bronco Mendenhall was his innate ability to absorb contact and almost always fall forward.
“Rarely does the first player get him down,” Mendenhall said. “It just seems like he is on the verge of getting out of a tackle or falling forward or stumbling ahead and he tries hard. So, I think his vision and his will, besides his ability, all contribute.”
On Saturday, junior PK Kier carried the ball five times for 20 yards. No other running back registered a carry, but with FCS program William & Mary in town on Friday, a few more backs may get a chance this weekend.
Delaney earns ACC honor
Virginia kicker Brian Delaney earned ACC special teams player of the week honors on Tuesday. He connected on field goals from 39, 36 and 45 yards to become the first Virginia kicker to make at least three kicks of 35 yards or greater in the same game since Ian Frye did at Miami in 2015.
A year after using three different kickers, early indication in 2019 is that the Cavaliers have found their man.
Former ‘Hoos in the NFL
Several former Virginia players got the news over the weekend that they made NFL rosters. Linebacker Chris Peace (Chargers), defensive lineman Andrew Brown (Bengals) and wide receivers Olamide Zaccheaus (Falcons) and Darius Jennings (Titans) all got the good news.
Peace led Virginia in sacks in each of the past two seasons, and Zaccheaus graduated as the Cavaliers’ all-time leader in receptions with 250. He joins former Virginia quarterbacks Matt Schaub and Kurt Benkert on the Falcons’ roster.
After posting his first 1,000-yard season as a senior, former Virginia running back Jordan Ellis found out on Monday that he made the Bengals’ practice squad. Former UVa safety Quin Blanding also earned a spot on the Panthers’ practice squad and offensive tackle Marcus Applefield did the same with the Ravens.
Applefield is joined on Baltimore’s practice squad by former UVa cornerback Maurice Canaday, who was a sixth-round pick by the Ravens in 2016 and spent portions of the past two seasons on the active roster after opening both years on injured reserve.
On Monday, former Virginia running back Taquan Mizzell signed with the Saints’ practice squad. He spent the past two seasons with the Bears, where he moved to wide receiver and caught his first career touchdown last year. He’s also listed as a wide receiver on New Orleans’ roster.
After trading for him this offseason from the Bills, the Eagles cut former Virginia linebacker Eli Harold, who was drafted in the third round in 2015 by the 49ers. As of Tuesday afternoon, Harold had not landed on another roster.