Potomac (Va.) All-Met defensive lineman Donta Wilkins, who had unofficially committed to Virginia in June, had planned to take a few more recruiting visits in January just for the life experiences if nothing else.

“I had definitely thought about other options, but in the back of my mind, I still kind of knew Virginia was the place for me,” Wilkins said. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

Then another side of life got in the way. Two grandmothers died within a week. Those personal losses and a family feeling he got on an official visit to Charlottesville a couple of weeks ago convinced him that he had made the right choice originally. He is going to Virginia.

“I loved them dearly,” Wilkins said of his grandmas, both of whom lived in Alexandria. “It was sad to see one [die] and to think the other one would get better. After that, it was pretty much I wasn’t even in the mood any more to take any trips.”

Besides bypassing travel plans to Michigan State and North Carolina, the 6-foot-3, 305-pound Wilkins said he also got late offers from Tennessee, Nebraska and Arkansas. He briefly considered taking a trip to Tennessee; Potomac (Va.) graduate Tommy Thigpen is the new linebackers coach in Knoxville.

The clincher might have been the official visit to Virginia, attended by parents and incoming freshman football players alike.

“We all just bonded and clicked,” said Wilkins, so respected in the Virginia AAA Northwest Region that he was named offensive and defensive player of the year as a two-way lineman. “It just felt like a family, and the right place to be.

“I had definitely thought about other options, but in the back of my mind, I still kind of knew Virginia was the place for me, even though I was still thinking about other schools that I really wanted to go to. In the back of my mind and in my heart, it was still Virginia.”

Wilkins was unbowed by the many changes on the Cavaliers’ coaching staff. He said that defensive coordinator Jim Reid, fired in December, was one of the main attractions of Virginia, and he also liked dismissed defensive line coach Jeff Hanson.

But when he learned that the new defensive coordinator was Jon Tenuta, former defensive coordinator at Notre Dame, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Ohio State, Kansas State, SMU and Marshall, and that head coach Mike London would help instruct the defensive linemen, he was sold.

Wilkins said he is only 10 points shy of a qualifying SAT score and that he has signed up to retake the test in February and March.