Note: This release has been updated to include a full list of the fourth and fifth year players returning for the 2021 season.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Virginia’s Fralin Family Head Football Coach Bronco Mendenhall announced today (Dec. 21) that nine fourth- and fifth-year Cavaliers will return to the roster for the 2021 season.
The group of players includes – DE Mandy Alonso, DE Adeeb Atariwa, FS Joey Blount, OLB Elliott Brown, CB De’Vante Cross, OG Chris Glaser, CB Nick Grant, WR Ra’Shaun Henry and OT Ryan Nelson. Eight of the nine players have already completed their undergraduate degrees. By the end of spring semester, all nine will have earned their undergraduate degrees.
A total of 17 4th and 5th year players will return for the 2021 season: Mandy Alonso, Adeeb Atariwa, Joey Blount, Darrius Bratton, Elliott Brown, Danny Caracciolo, Tommy Christ, De’Vante Cross, Chris Glaser, Nick Grant, Ra’Shaun Henry, Hayden Mitchell, Ryan Nelson, Olusegun Oluwatimi, Ryan Swoboda, Keytaon Thompson and Gerrik Volmer.
Alonso (Miami, Fla.) appeared in all 10 games of 2020 with nine starts. He made 26 tackles, 4.0 tackles for loss and 2.0 sacks. Alonso has appeared in 44 career games with 84 career tackles, 13.5 TFLs and six sacks. He graduated this month with a degree in government.
Atariwa (Sterling, Va.) appeared in all 10 games of 2020 with six starts after transferring to Virginia as a graduate transfer from JMU in August. He earned a degree in economics from JMU and is currently working on a master’s degree in education at UVA.
Blount (Atlanta, Ga.) started all five games he appeared in during the 2020 season. Battling an injury that forced him to miss five games, Blount finished with 25 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 1.0 sack, one interception and two pass breakups. A 2020 Campbell Trophy semifinalist, Blount has appeared in 43 career games with 219 career tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss and six interceptions. Blount graduated last summer (three years) with a degree in inter-American studies. He is working on a master’s degree in education.
Brown (Odenton, Md.) appeared in all 10 games with one start in 2020. Brown made four tackles, 1.0 tackle for loss, one pass breakup and six QB hurries in 2020. Brown has appeared in 41 career games with 19 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks and one interception. He graduated earlier this month with a degree in foreign affairs.
Cross (Allentown, Pa.) started all 10 games in 2020 and made 29 tackles, 3.0 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks and two interceptions. Cross has appeared in 50 career games and has made 105 career tackles, 7.0 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks and five career interceptions. Cross, Mendenhall’s first UVA recruit, has already earned his degree in history and has been working on a master’s in education.
Glaser (Solon, Ohio) started all 10 games of 2020 at right guard. He is part of an offensive line that ranks No. 1 in the ACC and No. 12 in the nation in tackles for loss allowed (4.2), while also ranking No. 2 in the ACC with 2.0 sacks allowed a game. He has appeared in 42 career games with 32 starts. Earlier this month Glaser earned a degree in economics.
Grant (Spotsylvania, Va.) started all 10 games for the Cavaliers in 2020 with 29 tackles, 3.0 tackles for loss, 1.0 sacks and two interceptions. He has appeared in 48 career games with 88 career tackles, 3.0 tackles for loss and four interceptions. He is currently working on a master’s degree in educational psychology.
Henry (Killeen, Texas) appeared in nine of UVA’s 10 games with two starts after transferring to Virginia as a graduate transfer from St. Francis (Pa.) last May. He made seven receptions for 206 yards and four touchdowns in his first season with the Cavaliers. He earned a degree in business management from St. Francis and has been working on a master’s degree in educational psychology at UVA.
Nelson (Buena Park, Calif.) started all 10 games in 2020 at left tackle. He is part of an offensive line that ranks No. 3 in the nation among “Power-5” schools in most rushing yards before contact per rush attempt (2.70). In 2020 he allowed only one sack and had 20 pancake blocks in one-on-one blocking situations for the Cavaliers over the course of their nine ACC games. After redshirting the 2017 season, Nelson has started UVA’s last 37 games (23 at LT, 14 at LG). He will graduate this spring with a degree in history.
Comments from Returning Cavaliers
“I’m coming back because I didn’t want my senior year to end like last year. Also, I miss the football environment with all the fans, the noise and the atmosphere at the games. I’m hoping to have that next season.”
“I wanted to come back because I believe this team can go far next season next. The past season was a good year for the o-line and I want to play one more year with them and for Brennan.”
“Due to my injury, I felt like I had more to give to this team and my brothers. Also, I think that we have an opportunity to be one of the best teams in ACC if we stay consistent and healthy.”
“I would like to thank my loving parents and older brother first of all for being supportive throughout my entire time at UVA. They have allowed me to be open and free about anything that I have been passionate about doing and cheering at all of my endeavors.
“This program has allowed me to become and grow up as a man. It has afforded me the opportunity of a lifetime with experiences and lessons that are sacred to me. I have met brothers that have come and went that I could never forget or replace in this lifetime. From being 2-10, this program has become everything Coach Mendenhall promised it would be in 2016 and still is becoming.
“The vision I have for myself goes beyond football and is rooted in who I can become as a person in order that I can help others. UVA has allowed both to happen simultaneously while receiving one, and soon, two degrees from the University. Whatever the future has for me will always be for me. I believe that I have not finished with what I have started here, and I am proud to announce that I am coming back for another season.”
De’Vante Cross (posted on Twitter)
“It’s been a hectic journey these past 5 years. From position changes, surgeries, playing, riding the bench, and finally starting these last two years. This program has made me into the man I am today and has granted me an opportunity to chase my dream of playing in the NFL. I’m going to continue to chase that dream and further my education.”