April 30, 2015

By Jeff White (jwhite@virginia.edu)

CHARLOTTESVILLE — He was born in Chelan, Wash., and spent his first few years there. His fellow students at Morgen Owings Elementary School, in fact, included a certain future University of Virginia basketball star.

“I did grow up with Joey Harris,” Charlie Hopkins said by phone from Palo Alto, Calif., where he’s nearing the end of his senior year at Stanford. “He was a grade above me.”

Their paths diverged when Hopkins’ family moved away from Chelan before his third-grade year. Hopkins went on to play basketball at Gonzaga Prep in Spokane, Wash., but his best sport was football, and that’s what he’ll play at UVa in the fall.

Hopkins, a 6-6, 260-pound tight end, confirmed Thursday that he’ll enroll at Virginia after graduating from Stanford on June 14. He redshirted at Stanford in 2011 and so has one year of eligibility left. Hopkins figures to provide immediate help at a position where the Cavaliers are exceptionally inexperienced.

Of the three scholarship tight ends at UVa this spring, only Rob Burns has played the position in a college game. Burns, who’ll be a fifth-year senior in the fall, has three career receptions for 11 yards.

The Virginia coaches “saw my film, the majority of my junior season, and they liked what they saw,” Hopkins said. “I’ve definitely improved since then, and I just feel like I can add depth to what the tight ends already are bringing to the table.”

Hopkins began his Stanford career as a defensive lineman, but moved to tight end before the 2013 season. As a redshirt sophomore, he appeared in 14 games, catching two passes for 10 yards on a team known for its powerful running game.

As a redshirt junior last fall, Hopkins was hindered by a hip injury and played in only three games, after which he decided to spend his final college season at another school.

“I wasn’t able to go anywhere in the Pac-12, so I started looking at good schools out East,” Hopkins said. “Virginia was definitely one of the first schools to catch my eye, and once I started talking with the coaches and they said they needed a tight end, I just focused all my energy on getting into Virginia and playing there.”

He’ll graduate from Stanford with a bachelor’s degree in science, technology and society. At UVa, he’ll enroll in a master’s program — research, statistics and evaluation — in the Curry School of Education.

“I haven’t taken any statistics classes, but I just know that it’s very important in the work force,” Hopkins said. “It’s a very valuable asset to add to my education.”

The assistant who recruited him to Stanford, defensive line coach Randy Hart, worked with Jon Tenuta, now UVa’s defensive coordinator, at Notre Dame in 2009. Hart helped facilitate Hopkins’ move to Charlottesville.

“I was trying to get in contact with anybody at Virginia, and [Hart] has been coaching for 25-plus years, so I asked him if he knew anybody there,” Hopkins recalled. “He said he knew Coach Tenuta, and then that was it.”

Used primarily as a blocker at Stanford, Hopkins believes he can make an impact as a receiver, too.

In 2013, “I had just switched to tight end and was still trying to figure out the position,” Hopkins said. “I was mainly using my previous skills from basketball, just to have them translate, but since then I’ve definitely improved a lot, and I think my receiving has improved tremendously. So I’m looking forward to getting an opportunity at Virginia.”

In the release UVa issued Thursday about Hopkins’ transfer, head coach Mike London said, “I like his maturity and what he will bring to our team from being part of a very successful Stanford program.”

During a visit to Virginia early this month, Hopkins met with a professor at the Curry School, toured the football facilities and hung out with the players, including offensive lineman Ross Burbank.

Hopkins won’t be the only player on the UVa roster this fall who graduated from another school. Wide receiver T.J. Thorpe has a similar story. Thorpe transferred to Virginia in January after earning a bachelor’s degree from North Carolina.

The Cavaliers’ top tight end in 2014 was Zachary Swanson, a fifth-year senior who caught 14 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns. On the depth chart released last week, Burns was listed No. 1 at tight end, Evan Butts No. 2 and Brendan Marshall No. 3.

Butts, a freshman, redshirted last season. Marshall, who’ll be a redshirt sophomore in the fall, switched from quarterback to tight end early this year.

“That’s a position where we were probably as unfamiliar with what we had starting spring ball as any place on offense,” offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild said last week.

“That position’s a work in progress right now. I like the ability level. We’re still a little bit raw there. We’ve got to develop at that spot if we want to, No. 1, run the ball like we want to and obviously get the tight end involved in the pass game.”

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