Hopewell’s Walker expected to make UVA debut Saturday

Hopewell’s Walker expected to make UVA debut Saturday
Hopewell product Ronnie Walker has been granted immediate eligibility by the NCAA. (Source: Virginia Athletics)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WWBT) - It’s been a long time coming for Hopewell graduate Ronnie Walker, who’s eagerly been awaiting his Virginia debut. On Monday, head coach Bronco Mendenhall noted that the running back won’t have to wait much longer.

“We’re anxious to have him back and anticipate his possible return for this week,” Mendenhall said during his weekly press availability. “Then just how he looks and time will kind of tell us where he fits.”

Walker is expected to team up with Wayne Taulapapa and Shane Simpson in the Cavalier backfield, and the Wahoos could use the help. Virginia’s 158.8 rushing yards per game are good enough for 11th in the ACC. Taulapapa is the team leader, averaging 60 yards per contest.

The former Blue Devil transferred during the offseason after two seasons at Indiana but had his first two attempts at gaining immediate eligibility denied by the NCAA. Walker learned two weeks ago that his final attempt at a waiver was granted, but then he was held out due to an illness.

“Ultimately, to not simplify it, it was almost as if we just finally got the wording right,” Mendenhall said of the multiple waiver attempts. “I think, yes it can be improved because the intent and the information was the same from the beginning. But in the meantime, he was waiting, and we were waiting, and I don’t think that’s okay.”

Walker appeared in 22 games for the Hoosiers during his two campaigns in Bloomington, rushing for 221 yards and two touchdowns, while adding a receiving score. He earned All-Academic Big Ten honors in 2019.

High school football fans in Central Virginia remember Walker as one of the key pieces to Hopewell’s 2017 state championship run. As a senior, the running back rushed for 1,344 yards and 19 touchdowns and helped fuel a Blue Devils team that got hot in the playoffs. His junior season saw him gain 2,011 yards on the ground and find the endzone 25 times.

Virginia hosts North Carolina on Saturday night at eight.

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