Ronnie Walker Jr. excelled as a running back at Hopewell High School, which is just outside Richmond. After two years at Indiana, Walker Jr. tweeted Friday that he’s returning to the commonwealth as a transfer to Virginia.
“I chose UVa because the school is closer to home and to my family and I love the family feel of the program,” Walker Jr. said. “Being closer to home I am able to help my mom out and she is able to see me play every single Friday and Saturday game.”
Walker Jr. added that he wants to become a leader and role model on the team while also setting an example for his younger brothers.
Since Walker Jr. isn’t a graduate transfer, he’ll need to receive an NCAA waiver to play next season or he’ll sit out a year due to NCAA transfer rules. When he does ultimately take the field, he’ll have two years of eligibility remaining for Bronco Mendenhall and the Cavaliers.
The UVa coaching staff hopes Walker Jr. will receive a waiver and be able to play this upcoming season.
“We hope that the waiver goes through because that kid is coming home during a time like this to be home, so we hope all that stuff gets cleared and Ronnie is ready to play next fall,” UVa offensive coordinator Robert Anae said.
The running back comes to Virginia after carrying the ball 59 times for 221 yards and two touchdowns across two seasons with the Hoosiers. Walker Jr. also reeled in 12 receptions for 112 yards and a touchdown.
All of his receptions came this past season, while both his rushing touchdowns came in 2018.
Anae credited the team’s success last season as part of the reason Walker Jr. was attracted to UVa. With Walker Jr.’s desire to return closer to home and Virginia’s success a season ago, the match made sense for both sides.
“Especially at a time like this, family means everything,” Anae said. “To have Ronnie right here and to be this close to his home, man, we feel that’s a huge blessing in our program to have that kid a part of it.”
Adding a running back was critical for Virginia, which lost depth with Lamont Atkins and P.K. Kier no longer on the team. Seneca Milledge also entered the transfer portal, leaving Wayne Taulapapa and Mike Hollins as the two main running backs left on the roster.
Taulapapa carried the load at running back a season ago, finishing with 473 yards on 116 carries. While he didn’t break off many explosive runs or post absurd yardage totals, Taulapapa did finish the season with 12 touchdowns on the ground.
Hollins, a rising sophomore, struggled at times with ball security, but he’s expected to be a key piece to UVa’s future at the position. He finished last season with 112 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries. Neither Hollins nor Taulapapa was a major factor in the passing game.