Players’ Efforts Help Land Strong Football Transfer Class

January 24, 2024

First-year quarterback Anthony Colandrea, left, took a leadership role in helping recruit transfers to the football program, including former Notre Dame receiver/tailback Chris Tyree, right. (Photo illustration by John DiJulio, University Communications; photos by UVA Athletics)

University of Virginia quarterback Anthony Colandrea had never met Chris Tyree when he learned in late November the University of Notre Dame standout wide receiver, tailback and return specialist had filed the paperwork to find a new team. Colandrea went to work.

Great Minds Put to Good Use, Learn More
Great Minds Put to Good Use, Learn More

“As soon as the transfer portal opened and guys were getting in, I wanted to get guys here and make this team better,” said Colandrea, who started six games at quarterback for the Cavaliers last season. “I told the coaches I was going to reach out to as many dudes as I could, and that’s what I ended up doing.”

 

 

As college football continues to evolve, Virginia’s coaches are no longer the program’s only recruiters. Colandrea is among the players whose efforts helped the Wahoos land a well-regarded class of transfers, a group that includes receivers Tyree, Andre Greene Jr. (formerly of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) and Trell Harris (Kent State University), all of whom began classes at the University this month.

“I probably talked to [Colandrea] more during the month of December than I did with my own family,” Justin Speros, UVA’s director of recruiting, said. “Every time a player hit the portal, I could count on a text from him asking how could he help get that individual to Charlottesville. He was instrumental in helping put this class together. It is a good reminder that your players are really your best and most effective recruiters.”

Defensive tackle Jason Hammond was among the other players who pitched in, Speros said. “He was blowing my phone up trying to help, and we were fortunate to have some players who lived locally, like [safety] Jonas Sanker and [wide receiver] Malachi Fields, who stepped up as great recruiting hosts on short notice. They did an excellent job helping seal the deal, too.”

Colandrea led all Power Five true freshmen in passing yards and touchdown passes in 2023, and Malik Washington was on the receiving end of many of those throws. A graduate transfer from Northwestern who’s now training for the NFL Scouting Combine, Washington caught 110 passes for 1,426 yards – both single-season records at Virginia – and nine TDs last season. Fields had 58 receptions for 811 yards and five touchdowns last year.

Justin Speros, director of recruiting for UVA’s football program, said several current Cavalier players were instrumental in the hectic transfer recruiting process. (UVA Athletics photo)

Washington earned All-America honors in 2023, and for him to “have the type of year that he had just kind of opens up people’s eyes to what’s possible,” Virginia head coach Tony Elliott said.

To the wideouts Virginia was pursuing in the transfer portal, Colandrea highlighted what Washington and Fields accomplished last season.

“I was just telling them the production of those receivers and what they could do here if they came here,” Colandrea said, “and as you could tell, Andre Greene, Trell Harris, Chris Tyree – a lot of them loved it. I think that was huge, just for me to get in their ear and stuff.”

In his 49 games with Notre Dame, Tyree totaled 3,284 all-purpose yards (1,161 rushing, 945 receiving, 119 on punt returns, 1,059 on kickoff returns). In his back-and-forth with Colandrea, the quarterback talked about “getting an opportunity to show how big of a playmaker I am,” Tyree said. “That’s what I was looking for coming into the portal, just having an opportunity to showcase my skill set and show what kind of special player I am, and that was kind of what he was offering as his recruiting pitch. It aligned pretty well with what I was looking for.”

Tyree, a graduate of Thomas Dale High School in Chesterfield County, said hearing from Colandrea and other UVA players, including tailback Kobe Pace and cornerback Malcolm Greene, impressed him. 

“Just being able to be welcomed by the locker room, without even giving a hint that I was coming, was a really big factor for me,” Tyree said.

Andre Greene, a graduate of St. Christopher’s School in Richmond, agreed. Hearing from Cavaliers “was extremely helpful in my decision to get a better feel for the program and if it we would be a good fit for each other,” Greene said.

The transfer portal has changed recruiting. With transfers, UVA head coach Tony Elliott said, it’s “almost like speed dating, to be honest with you. It happens fast, because you can’t talk to them until they get into the portal … So basically, you’ve got a two-week window to try to develop a relationship, evaluate it, and they’re typically more [knowledgeable about] what they’re looking for. They’ve been through some of just the fluff of recruiting, so to speak. They’ve done the photo shoots. They’ve done a lot of those things.”

 

 

Elliott said he’s grateful the players who joined the program as freshmen in 2023, including Colandrea and linebacker Kam Robinson, have been eager to help with recruiting. He says it shows they “believe in what we’re doing here as a program and what our program is about holistically, and then they had early success and they want to be advocates for what’s going on within the program.”

“I’m not on Twitter as much, so I don’t see what they’re doing, but I appreciate the work that they’re doing. It’s just a testament to the fact that they’re having a good experience. They feel like they’re being developed. They feel like they’re being taken care of. They’re having opportunities to grow, and they believe in the direction that we’re headed, and good players want to play with good players.”

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