Our position-by-position preview continues on with Isaiah Ford, Cam Phillips, and Virginia Tech’s wide receivers.
Two years ago, the Hokies were coming off a 2013 season where the wide receiver corps was the worst it had been in a very long time. Two years later, Virginia Tech heads into the 2016 season with a wide receiver corps that may be the program’s best since at least the final season of Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale led by potentially the best wide receiver in Virginia Tech football history, Isaiah Ford.
Ford broke all three major Virginia Tech single-season receiving records last season with 75 receptions for 1,164 receiving yards and 11 receiving touchdowns. Now, Ford has enters 2016 with a very good chance at breaking those single-season records again now that Justin Fuente is in charge along with breaking the Hokies’ career receiving records as he only needs 54 receptions, 6 receiving touchdowns, and 1,012 receiving yards to do just that.
For a collegiate wide receiver, Ford is one of the most refined players that not only can beat defensive backs with his athletic skills but can also beat defensive backs with his route-running skills. Ford has proven to be a hard worker on and off the field and his route-running ability shows that as cornerbacks have to be ready to face someone whose routes are run at a NFL level.
Ford does not seem like speed wide receiver, but Ford has deceptive speed that can allow him to make a big play over the top while also having very good agility and some of the best hands in college football with a few spectacular catches in his collegiate career. More than anything else, Ford is a playmaker that has a future on Sunday and as a fairly high draft pick whether he leaves after this season or next.
Starting with Ford will be fellow junior Cam Phillips who has been the other part of this WR duo that has rebuilt Virginia Tech’s wide receiver corps. Phillips has a very good chance at jumping into Virginia Tech’s all-time top 5 leaders in receptions with those odds only increasing now that he is in Justin Fuente’s offense after having a solid sophomore season with 49 catches for 582 receiving yards and 2 receiving touchdowns.
Phillips has developed into a productive wide receiver that can work on the outside or out of the slot and as someone who is a solid route runner. Phillips has good speed and toughness to fight to get a few extra yards though there have been times in the past where he has tried to do too much.
The best thing with Phillips is the fact that he seems to always be steady and productive as he only had one game with less than 3 receptions last season. Phillips also has shown the potential to have a big game or two during the season and with Justin Fuente bringing in his offense, Phillips’s production should only improve.
Behind Ford and Phillips is messy right now but there is no doubt that the Hokies’ wide receiver depth is a whole lot better this year than last with plenty of talented newcomers ready to make an early impact.
Phil Patterson was the one freshman receiver that did not enroll early but Patterson became a top target for Justin Fuente as soon as he arrived, and the Hokies’ head coach was able to get Patterson back into the fold quickly. Now, Patterson seems ready to slot in as the Hokies’ third receiver despite the fact that he just arrived on campus earlier this month.
Patterson has great speed and definitely can be a big play machine early as someone who can take the top off of a defense if he has the right quarterback to give him quality deep balls. Patterson seems to be fairly raw as a route runner but he has someone great to learn from in Ford while also having the speed and athletic skills to develop into a very talented playmaker that can do some damage early.
Divine Deablo is fairly raw as a wide receiver but Deablo took some big steps in his development this spring and is developing into a quality target with great size that can be useful over the middle or on the outside. Deablo seems to have the skills of someone who can go against and box out safeties over the middle while also being someone who can go up and win a jump ball. Deablo still must improve his hands but the North Carolina native has a bright future for the Hokies.
Devin Wilson made a return to the football field this spring and showed that he has some very good athleticism along with adjusting back to playing football rather quickly. Wilson is also slightly faster than many likely would think for a 6’3”-6’4” WR but Wilson has shown that he can provide some quality play on the field for the Hokies.
Samuel Denmark is known best for his speed that could make him useful in a couple of different ways out of the slot including on screens, quick passes, and jet sweeps. Denmark is another part of a deep wide receiver class that has the talent to make the Hokies even stronger at the wide receiver spot even after Ford and Phillips leave.
Eric Kumah dealt with injuries this spring but has a lot of talent and could be someone that surprises some people this fall. Kumah has a decent route tree and while he seems likely to be redshirted this season, Kumah can definitely be a quality receiver some time down the road.
Of the returning wide receivers behind Ford and Phillips, the only one that seems likely to potentially find a role is Jaylen Bradshaw. Bradshaw has definitely improved but right now, he seems like he may slot in sixth to ninth on the depth chart behind a few of the newcomers but Bradshaw definitely is someone that the Hokies can be willing to put on the field this year, unlike last season.
Among the walk-ons, C.J. Carroll is small but speedy and has a chance at earning some playing time out of the slot. Carroll may not climb that high on the depth chart but there is definitely a role for him to potentially play and he may end up ahead of Bradshaw on the depth chart.
WR Depth Chart Prediction
- Isaiah Ford
- Cam Phillips
- Phil Patterson
- Divine Deablo
- Devin Wilson
- Sam Denmark (Redshirt)
- Jaylen Bradshaw
- Eric Kumah (Redshirt)
- C.J. Carroll
Unsurprisingly, Isaiah Ford and Cam Phillips will be back at the top of the depth chart while Phil Patterson and Divine Deablo are set to be their top backups along with being the next big duo. Behind them could go in any order with Devin Wilson being the frontrunner to being fifth guy. Justin Fuente is willing to use six or seven guys so most of these guys may play but Eric Kumah seems certain to be redshirted while Sam Denmark also seems fairly likely to be redshirted this fall.
Over the past few years, Virginia Tech has rebuilt their wide receiver corps into one of the best units on the team led by a potential All-American and one of the top 6 WRs in college football in Isaiah Ford.
Our position-by-position preview will continue on tomorrow with a look at Bucky Hodges and the tight ends.
Check out the home of our 2016 Virginia Tech Football Preview right here.