Aug 14, 2013
By Jeff White (email@example.com)
NAME: Donte Wilkins
POSITION: Defensive tackle
VITALS: 6-2, 305-pound true freshman
HOMETOWN: Woodbridge (Potomac High School)
OUTLOOK FOR 2013: How many true freshmen will play for the Cavaliers this fall is still to be determined, but Wilkins almost certainly will be one of them. (Some of the other candidates are tailback Taquan Mizzell, defensive tackle Tyrell Chavis, outside linebacker Zach Bradshaw and cornerbacks Kirk Garner and Tim Harris.)
The Cavaliers played 12 true freshmen in 2011 and nine last season.
“If there’s a young player that has the skill set and shows the talent that he can play, then we’ll play him,” head coach Mike London said. “We’re at that point right now. We’d like to get to a point where you got your juniors and seniors in place and then you redshirt the guys that come in. This team is not there yet.”
Virginia is especially thin at defensive tackle, where fifth-year senior Brent Urban and redshirt sophomore David Dean are the starters. Wilkins has been working with the second-team defense in training camp, alongside redshirt freshman Andre Miles-Redmond, and he’s pleased with how things have gone.
“Yes, sir, I love it,” said Wilkins, who wears jersey No. 93. “It’s everything I wanted. Now I gotta work harder. I gotta keep picking things up. It’s the little things that count.”
His biggest challenge so far?
“In high school I just overpowered people and did what I wanted,” Wilkins said. “Here it’s a lot more [about] technique and being fundamentally sound. So I’m just getting used to it.”
HOT COMMODITY: Wilkins, who committed to Virginia in June 2012, received scholarship offers from many other schools, including North Carolina, Penn State, Virginia Tech, Tennessee, Nebraska, Arkansas, Michigan State and Maryland. The staff changes at UVa after the 2012 season made him consider re-opening his recruitment, but Wilkins ended up sticking with his commitment.
Like Wilkins, Keenan Carter was a dominant defensive tackle at Potomac High before enrolling at UVa, where he lettered in 2004, ’05 and ’06. Carter is now a coach at Potomac, and he spoke highly of his alma mater to Wilkins.
“He said it’s the best place for me,” Wilkins recalled. “He said it was the best place for him. He said he wouldn’t have chosen anyplace else to go.”
Wilkins, who was twice named to The Washington Post’s All-Metro first team at defensive tackle, was the Northwest Region player of the year on both offense and defense in 2012. He played guard on offense.
QUICK LEARNER: For college linemen, weight training is a key to their development, and Wilkins has impressed Evan Marcus, Virginia’s strength and conditioning coach for football.
“He bends pretty well,” Marcus said, “and the thing that you like about him is when you try to teach him something, you see him try to apply it literally the next rep. So that’s a good sign.”
Wilkins trains with Urban and Dean in the McCue Center weight room.
“We told the rookies that no two rookies can lift together,” Marcus said. “So they have to lift with two veterans. Two older guys have to take a younger guy under their wings and teach him a little bit of the culture and how we train and the mindset we’re looking at.”
Wilkins said he lifted weights regularly in high school. “I knew what was to be expected [at UVa]. Keenan told me there’s no playing around in the weight room. It’s all business.”
Many of the Cavaliers’ linemen needed to bulk up significantly when they got to college, Urban and Dean among them. That’s not an issue for Wilkins and the 6-3, 290-pound Chavis.
“Now you’re just trying to make their muscle mass increase and their baby fat go away,” Marcus said. “You’re going to have to educate them on how to take care of their bodies, you’re going to have to teach them techniques. It’s a whole learning curve. You’re teaching them how to treat themselves like athletes. Nutrition’s a big part in how we train and why we train the way we do. It’s teaching them about what we are like and what our culture is.”