CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Saturday (Dec. 2) the Virginia football program held its annual awards banquet to recognize team and individual accomplishments from the 2023 season. The event was held in the George Welsh Indoor Practice Facility.

Captains Awards – Mike Hollins, Malik Washington, Daniel Sparks, James Jackson and Jahmeer Carter
Each week during the season several players were selected to represent the team as game captains. Based on their leadership, work ethic and performance, the players voted running back Mike Hollins, wide receiver Malik Washington, punter Daniel Sparks, linebacker James Jackson and defensive tackle Jahmeer Carter as 2023 Season Captains.

Offense Awards

MVP – Malik Washington
A first-team All-ACC selection, Malik Washington finished the season with a school-record 110 receptions and a school-record 1,426 receiving yards. He broke the ACC single-season records for receptions (110) and receptions per game (9.16). His 1,426 receiving yards are the fifth-most in a single season in ACC history. Washington was one of 10 semifinalists for the 2023 Biletnikoff Award presented to the nation’s top receiver. He accumulated 1,706 all-purpose yards (1,426 rec. & 273 KR) in 2023, the fifth-most in a single-season in UVA history.

Most Improved – McKale Boley and Perris Jones
Offensive tackle McKale Boley and running back Perris Jones shared the offensive most improved award. Boley did an incredible job in the off-season of reshaping his body. His commitment to fitness resulted in him starting all 12 games at right tackle, often playing through injuries. According to Pro Football Focus, Boley allowed just two sacks in 473 pass blocking opportunities during the season. Jones appeared in the season’s first 10 games before being sidelined due to an injury. He started seven times and rushed for a team-high 393 yards. Jones ran for a career-high 134 yards on 12 carries (11.2 ypc.) in UVA’s win vs. William & Mary.

Rookie of the Year – Anthony Colandrea
Anthony Colandrea passed for 1,958 yards this season, the most by UVA freshman and more than any Power 5 freshman quarterback during the regular season. In his first collegiate start against James Madison, Colandrea was 20-for-26 with 377 yards and two touchdowns, setting a UVA single-game freshman record for passing yards. His 75-yard touchdown pass to Kobe Pace against JMU was the longest ever by a UVA freshman quarterback. He also set a UVA single-game freshman (true or redshirt) records for completions (29) and touchdowns (3) during the season. Colandrea was named the ACC Rookie of the Week twice during the season.

Impact Player – Brian Stevens
An All-ACC honorable mention selection, Brian Stevens ended the regular season with the fourth-highest Pro Football Focus grade (77.3) for centers in the country. His was the top-graded run-blocking center in ACC according to PFF. During the season he allowed one sack in 476 opportunities according to PFF. Stevens started all 12 games for UVA (10 at center, 2 at guard).

12th Man Award – Grant Misch, Kobe Pace and Mike Hollins
A trio of Cavalier veterans, who displayed tremendous leadership over the past year, shared the team’s 12th Man Award for their devotion to their teammates and the program. That group featured tight end Grant Misch along with running backs Kobe Pace and Mike Hollins.

Defense Awards

MVP – Jonas Sanker
At the end of the regular season, Jonas Sanker led the ACC and ranked second in the country with 6.1 solo tackles per game. His 107 total tackles and 8.9 total tackles per game are the third-most in the league. Sanker had 73 solo tackles, which were the most in the ACC and are tied for the fourth-most of any defender in FBS.  His 10 passes defended tied for the sixth-most in the league. Sanker ranked third in FBS for the most solo tackles (73) by a defensive back during the regular season. He led UVA in total tackles against in seven of 12 games, including four double-digit tackle efforts.

Most Improved – Ben Smiley
In nine games, Ben Smiley totaled 15 tackles and finishes second on the team with two sacks (North Carolina and Georgia Tech). He also totaled 3.5 tackles for loss. He was also credited with a quarterback hurry and defensive pass break up. Smiley started in eight of the nine games he played during the season. Her served as a game captain for the North Carolina game.

Rookie of the Year – Kam Robinson
Named to the On3 true freshman All-America team, Kam Robinson led all ACC true freshmen with 71 tackles and ranks third in FBS true freshmen. He was the only freshman in the country with 70 tackles, a sack, and an interception. Robinson led the Cavaliers with a season-high 12 tackles against William & Mary, the most by a UVA true freshman linebacker since Ahmad Brooks (12 tackles) in the 2003 Continental Tire Bowl against Pitt. He intercepted his second pass of the season and returned it 28 yards for a touchdown at Louisville. It was the first interception return for a touchdown by a Cavalier since D’Sean Perry returned an interception 84 yards for a score against Abilene Christian in 2020.

Impact Player – James Jackson
Inside linebacker James Jackson stepped up in a big way during the 2023 season. He recorded a total of 80 tackles (34 solo), 1 sack, 4 TFL, 1 sack, 1 interception and had seven QB hurries. Jackson was tied for 15th in ACC in tackles per game (6.7) at the end of the regular season. He started all 12 games at inside linebacker, was second on the team in tackles. His play in UVA’s win at North Carolina earned him ACC Linebacker of the Week honors. Jackson had the game-sealing interception with 26 seconds left against then-No. 10 Tar Heels. He added six tackles and had a pair of QB hurries in the contest.

12th Man Award – Josh Ahern
Unwilling to be sidelined by several injuries, inside linebacker Josh Ahern was an inspiration thanks to his grit and determined play. Ahern appeared in a total of 10 games and started three times. He managed 32 tackles during the campaign including a season-high six against Maryland. Ahern collected his first career interception in the Hoos’ game at Boston College.

Special Teams Awards

Specialist of the Year – Will Bettridge
During the season Will Bettridge converted 18-for-21 on field goal attempts and a perfect 31-for-31 on extra point tries. He tied for third in the ACC in field goals made and ranked fourth field goals made per game (1.55). At one point during the season Bettridge made 13-straight field goals from 39 yards and in. Has made three field goals from 45 yards or more this season, including season-long, 46-yard attempt against good when he went 4-for-4 against Miami (22, 23, 32, 35).  He was tabbed as the ACC Specialist of the Week after going 3-for-3 in UVA’s 30-27 win over Duke

Most Improved – Eli Wood
Eli Wood proved to be one of the Hoos top coverage players on special teams in 2023. He participated on all four special team units. He was frequently the first Cavalier defender to arrive at the point of attack to shed would-be blockers or engage the opponent kick returner.

Rookie of the Year – Matt Ganyard
The oldest player in FBS this season, 34-year-old Matt Ganyard joined the Cavalier program as a second-year graduate school student who previously served a 10-year stint in the armed services. Ganyard handled the team’s kickoff duties all season despite the fact he had never previously played in an organized football game. He was a nominee for the Armed Forces Merit Award.

Additional Awards

1, 15, 41 Award – Ashley Murray
The 1, 15, 41 Award was created to honor the spirt and impact of Lavel Davis Jr., Devin Chandler and D’Sean Perry, three players killed during a shooting on Grounds in November of 2022. The award is presented to a player, coach or staff member who makes an impact on the Virginia football program felt far beyond their described role. It represents making an impact on others and not focusing on oneself. The recipient was UVA assistant athletics trainer Ashley Murray.

H.E.A.R.T. Award – Mike Hollins
Head coach Tony Elliott’s foundation for the Virginia Football program is the acronym H.E.A.R.T. That stands for humility, effort, accountability, respect and toughness. The winner of the ACC’s Brian Piccolo Award as the conference’s most courageous player, Hollins was an inspiration to many after recovering from gunshot wounds suffered during a campus shooting in November of 2022. He battled back from his injuries to rejoin the team in time for winter workouts and went on to part of a three-man rotation at running back for UVA. He was the recipient of the Capital One Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award and a semifinalist for the 2023 James Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award. Mike Hollins scored UVA’s first three touchdowns in the Cavaliers’ win at top-10 North Carolina, the most by a UVA player since 2019.

Cav Code – Jared Rayman
The ultimate game plan for Virginia football is to develop the student-athletes to win the game of life. To help accomplish that, head coach Tony Elliott established the Cav Code to develop and empower team members to become men of service to impact others throughout their lives. CODE is an acronym for Character, Opportunity, Duty and Engagement. This year’s Cav CODE winner was quarterback Jared Rayman, a walkon who was awarded a scholarship this season. Rayman has been a team leader in the Cavaliers’ community outreach efforts including organizing weekly trips to the UVA Children’s Hospital. Rayman also promotes sign language to his teammates and other UVA student-athletes.

Academic Awards

The Academic Awards recognizes the UVA players for academic achievement for their respective classes. This year’s recipients:
First Years: Tight End Hayden Rollison (Pre-Commerce)
Second Years: Linebacker Logan Kotter (Pre-Commerce)
Third Years: Wide Receiver Ethan Davies (Youth and Social Innovation)
Fourth Years:  Cornerback Elijah Gaines (African American Studies and Media Studies)
Fifth Years: Wide Receiver Malik Washington (Higher Education)

Strength and Conditioning

NCSA Strength and Conditioning All-American Nominees – Jahmeer Carter, Mike Hollins, Perris Jones and Malik Washington
Each year the National Strength Coaches Association selects an All-America team based on academic achievement, personal integrity, athletic accomplishments and dedication to strength training and conditioning. This year, UVA nominated defensive tackle Jahmeer Carter, and running backs Mike Hollins and Perris Jones and wide receiver Malik Washington for the honor.

Strength and Conditioning Dedication Award – Jahmeer Carter & Mike Hollins
UVA’s Strength and Conditioning Dedication Award recognizes work ethic and leadership in strength training as examples to others. These individuals place the team above individual accomplishments and are committed to all areas of training and performance enhancements. The award is voted on by the team. This year Jahmeer Carter is a repeat winner and shares the award with running back Mike Hollins who earned the nickname “Iron Mike” with his dedication to recovering from the wounds he sustained last year during an on-Grounds shooting incident.

Power Hour Award – Logan Kotter and Bryce Purnell
At Virginia, the Power Hour is a unit made up of developmental players who train four to five days a week, learning technique, developing strength, power and mass and striving to establish personal record throughout the fall. The Power Hour Award is voted on by this group to recognize the player who epitomizes work ethic, consistency and leadership in all areas of the program. This year’s recipients are linebacker Logan Kotter and defensive tackle Bryce Purnell.

Iron Hoo Competition Champions – Malik Washington, Paul Akere and Brian Stevens
The Iron Hoo competition measures a number of training metrics based on performance compared to peer grounds and is broken down by three different categories for players – Speed, Big Speed and Power. This year’s events were power clean, back squat, bench press, vertical jump, broad jump, 20-yard sprint and pro agility drills. This year’s winners were wide receiver Malik Washington (Speed), defensive end Paul Akere (Big Speed) and center Brian Stevens (Power).