The ACC Kickoff (aka media days) is fast approaching. I’ll be using the blog to count down to what we media members consider the unofficial start of the football season. This isn’t a list of the 25 best players on Virginia Tech’s roster. It’s a list of 25 things/people that will determine whether the Hokies’ 2012 season is a success or not. That includes players and coaches from both Virginia Tech and, occasionally, a few of its opponents.
No. 17: A fourth wide receiver
The Hokies’ first three wide receiver spots are pretty well locked down. Seniors Marcus Davis, Dyrell Roberts and D.J. Coles figure to get most of the snaps out wide (provided Coles is all the way back from offseason PCL surgery).
After that, however, there are question marks in the receiving corps. The only other returning wide receivers to catch a pass last year were Corey Fuller, who had two receptions for 19 yards in six games, and Willie Byrn, who had one grab for 15 yards.
To diversify the offense with more multiple-receiver looks, insure against injury and — it must be in the back of the coaches’ minds — get players game-ready for the 2013 season once all the seniors are gone, Virginia Tech will need to establish some additional threats in the passing game.
Three come to mind right now — Fuller, redshirt freshman Demitri Knowles and true freshman Joel Caleb.
Fuller is the oldest of the group, a senior who transferred after running track at Kansas for a couple years. The second oldest brother in the Fuller clan, Corey had to knock off the rust on the football field after joining the Hokies in 2010. He’s got speed (4.35 in offseason testing), decent size (6-foot-2, 191) and started to come on given the opportunity in the spring, catching three touchdown passes during one scrimmage.
Knowles is another speedster who is relatively new to football. His 4.28 testing time was the fastest on the team, but the native of The Bahamas only played two years of high school football at Liberty Christian Academy before coming to Tech. A redshirt year helped him develop, although the raw skills are there in the 6-foot, 174-pound athlete. His explosiveness was so attractive that he nearly burned his redshirt last year to play on the return team.
Lastly, Caleb is among the highest-ranked receiving recruits Virginia Tech has signed. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound freshman might have some work to do to familiarize himself with the position after playing quarterback his last two seasons at Clover Hill High in Midlothian. He’s also coming off a knee injury. But he was ranked that high in the recruiting rankings for a reason, and Frank Beamer has said he has no reservations about getting talented players on the field immediately (lest they turn pro early and the Hokies get no extra year from the redshirt).
There are other players on the roster too — E.L. Smiling, Kevin Asante, Christian Reeves, Byrn and freshman Joshua Stanford – and reps appear to be available for anyone who can stand out in the crowd.
Getting some of those receivers a supporting role this year is probably a high priority, since they’ll be the ones carrying the load once 2013 — and that Alabama opener — comes around.
Coming Friday: He got an All-ACC honorable mention last year.
- No. 25: Randall Dunn, senior tight end
- No. 24: Donaldven Manning, freshman cornerback
- No. 23: Pick a punter
- No. 22: J.C. Coleman, freshman running back
- No. 21: Georgia Tech’s option offense
- No. 20: Antoine and Derrick Hopkins, defensive tackles
- No. 19: EJ Manuel, Florida State quarterback
- No. 18: Bud Foster, defensive coordinator