Virginia Tech’s spring practice is fast approaching, with drills beginning March 27. To prepare you for what should be a highly-anticipated spring session, I’ll be breaking down the Hokies by position groups over the next week and a half.
The 2012 numbers
– Marcus Davis: 51 catches, 953 yards, 5 TD, 5 carries, 72 yards
– Corey Fuller: 43 catches, 815 yards, 6 TD, 1 carry, 10 yards
– Dyrell Roberts: 33 catches, 398 yards, 1 TD, 9 carries, 74 yards
– Demitri Knowles: 19 catches, 240 yards, 1 TD, 7 carries, 35 yards
– Ryan Malleck: 17 catches, 174 yards
– Randall Dunn: 12 catches, 128 yards, 3 TD
– Eric Martin: 3 catches, 16 yards, 1 TD
– Kevin Asante: 2 catches, 18 yards
– Josh Stanford: 1 catch, 9 yards
– Christian Reeves: 1 catch, 6 yards
– George George
– David Mellstrom
– D.J. Coles, r-Sr.
– E.L. Smiling, r-Jr.
– Willie Byrn, r-Jr. (walk-on)
– Demitri Knowles, r-So.
– Kevin Asante, r-So.
– Christian Reeves, r-So.
– Joel Caleb, r-Fr.
– Josh Stanford, r-Fr.
– Der’Woun Greene, r-Fr.
– Mark Irick, r-Fr.
– Charley Meyer, r-Fr. (walk-on)
– Austin Jones, r-Fr. (walk-on)
– Malcolm Westbrook, r-Fr.
– Zack McCray, r-Jr.
– Fuller Hoepner, r-Jr. (walk-on)
– Duan Perez-Means, r-Jr.
– Ryan Malleck, Jr.
– Darius Redman, r-So.
– Dakota Jackson, r-Fr.
– David Prince, Fr.
– Deon Newsome, Fr. (maybe a DB)
Will this young group of receivers be able to step in to seamlessly replace the trio of receivers — Davis, Fuller and Roberts — that caught the vast majority of the Hokies’ passes last season?
The star attraction
Last year was supposed to be Coles’ swan song, but a slow recovery from offseason knee surgery and an awkward hit he suffered to the knee against Georgia Tech in the opener led to a medical redshirt and gave the receiver another shot at his senior season. Once part of a large senior class, he’s now the lone veteran of the group, with 37 career games to his credit. Coles started to come on strong near the end of his junior season in 2011, catching seven passes for 116 yards in the ACC title game loss to Clemson (the only offensive bright spot of that game) and hauling in touchdown passes in two of the final four games. The 6-foot-4, 226-pounder has had over a year to recover from his initial knee surgery and several months to let the injury he suffered in the opener heal. Without Davis, Fuller or Roberts, Tech will need a No. 1 receiver to step up. Coles seems like the logical candidate.
Behind Coles, there are plenty of question marks, most obviously: who is ready to get on the field? Knowles showed some flashes last season, although, still relatively new to the game, he’s certainly not a finished product. Asante was bothered by a toe injury late in the year right when he had a chance to make an impression following Davis’ brief benching. That’s the extent of experience behind Coles. Smiling, Reeves and Byrn haven’t gotten much playing time. And the entire 2012 class redshirted, meaning it’s a very raw group, which should make this spring’s competition for reps — particularly under new receivers coach Aaron Moorehead — wide open. At tight end, Malleck would seem to have the inside track at the starting job, having been one of the coaches’ favorites for a while, but he didn’t lock down the job last year. Expect him to be pushed by a number of young tight ends waiting to get their break and get on the field.
The new guys
It was a light 2013 signing class as far as receivers are concerned. Prince was a quarterback at Patrick Henry High in Roanoke, so he’ll need time to adjust to the position. Newsome was a do-everything player at Hampton High, primarily playing quarterback and defensive back. Frank Beamer said that his likely starting position in college will be as a slot receiver, although Bud Foster made mention on signing day that Newsome could start as a defensive back too.
The wild cards
Since so many of Virginia Tech’s receivers haven’t been on the field, there’s a large group of wild cards here. The two most notable are Caleb and Stanford. Caleb transitioned from quarterback in his first year in college, needing the redshirt year to adjust to receiver. At 6-foot-2, 211 pounds, he’s a big receiver who seems like he’d be a physical mismatch on defensive backs guarding him. Stanford was set to play during his first year on campus but suffered a knee injury that led him to be shut down (he apparently received the medical redshirt Tech was seeking). If coaches had plans for him as a true freshman with people ahead of him, it stands to figure that they have plans with him now that the path to playing time has opened up. Throw Meyer, who Beamer praised a number of time last August, in this group too.
At tight end, McCray made the choice to move from defensive line last fall. He did pretty well at the position in high school (an all-region honorable mention in addition to his defensive duties) and probably wasn’t going to get any playing time on the defense anyway. He seemed reinvigorated by the move in November. That’ll probably carry over to the fall.
Davis, Fuller and Roberts combined for 127 receptions, 2,166 yards and 12 touchdowns last year. That accounted for 84.6 percent of the receptions, 88.0 percent of the receiving yards and 92.3 percent of the touchdowns by Hokies receivers in 2012.