With the graduation of Jacob Finn, who served as Virginia's starting punter last season after transferring from Florida, Tony Elliott found himself in serious need of a new starting punter for his first season leading the UVA football program.
He may have just found the answer in Minnesota punter Daniel Sparks, who announced that he will be transferring to Virginia in a social media post on Tuesday night.
A 6'6", 200-pound sophomore from Gadsden, Alabama, Sparks played his freshman season in 2020 at Louisiana-Monroe, where he started all ten games, punting 33 times and averaging 44.6 yards per punt, the second-best mark in the Sun Belt Conference. He landed five punts inside the 20-yard line and also kicked off 33 times for the War Hawks that season, averaging 55.3 yards per kick.
Sparks parlayed his solid freshman campaign at Louisiana-Monroe into a scholarship offer at a Big Ten football program, transferring to Minnesota on January 5th, 2021. The Golden Gophers opted to go with Mark Crawford as their starting punter, so Sparks did not see any game action in the 2021 season.
On May 2nd, Sparks decided to enter the transfer portal again. Miami and Jackson State extended offers to Sparks within the week after he entered the portal and UVA joined the fray on May 26th.
On Tuesday night, Sparks announced his commitment to Virginia in a social media post, addressing a significant position of need for the UVA special teams unit. The only punter currently listed on the roster is junior kicker Brendan Farrell, who served as the punter in the spring game, but has not punted a single time in a live game in his collegiate career.
Sparks will be the third player to sign with the Cavaliers as a transfer from the Big Ten this offseason, joining Wisconsin wide receiver Devin Chandler and Michigan State defensive end Jack Camper. Tony Elliott and Keith Gaither, who serves as the team's special teams coordinator in addition to being UVA's running backs coach, will be happy to give Daniel Sparks an opportunity to earn the job as Virginia's starting punter, although the Cavaliers will certainly be hoping that Sparks does not have to take the field very often this fall.
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