Hokies Football Preview: Isaiah Ford, Cam Phillips, and Virginia Tech’s 2015 Wide Receivers

Today, we continue our position-by-position preview of the 2015 Virginia Tech Hokies with a look at the wide receivers. Zohn Burden is in his first year as the Hokies’ WRs Coach and has some quality talent on the roster with Isaiah Ford and Cam Phillips.

For our projected depth chart, we will not do two separate wide receiver positions, but one general depth chart so each pair of receivers will be a different string on the roster (top two are the starters, next two are second string, etc).

Pre-Fall WR Depth Chart

  1. Isaiah Ford
  2. Cam Phillips
  3. Demitri Knowles
  4. Kevin Asante
  5. Deon Newsome
  6. Jaylen Bradshaw
  7. Joel Caleb
  8. Charley Meyer
  9. Coleman Fox
  10. C.J. Carroll

Isaiah Ford is the focal point of the Hokies’ passing attack at wide receiver after having a very good freshman season with a team-high 56 receptions and 709 receiving yards along with having 6 touchdowns and an average of 12.7 yards per catch on the way to earning All-ACC Honorable Mention honors.

Ford has the skill set to work on the outside or in the slot with great hands that have allowed him to make some incredible catches. Ford also has solid speed and good athleticism, which also helps him make some spectacular catches.

Ford has proven to be an above-average route-runner with the ability to make quick cuts and get the separation that he needs to make some big plays down the field. Ford is the best wide receiver that the Hokies have had since Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale.

Ford has also made a lot of improvement this offseason and shown his very impressive work ethic. No one should be surprised if Ford is on the All-ACC first or second team after the end of the season as one of the top five or six wide receivers in the ACC.

Cam Phillips was also impressive as a freshman with 40 receptions for 498 receiving yards, 3 receiving touchdowns, and an average of 12.5 yards per reception. Phillips showed a lot of talent at wide receiver and has shown a high work ethic this offseason to continue to improve.

Phillips is more of a pure, outside starting wide receiver, but Phillips can make play all over the field whether it be over the middle or stretching the field down the sidelines. However, Phillips can also play out of the slot on some plays as another player with good hands and solid speed.

Phillips might not be as good of a route-runner as Ford, but Phillips can make the quick cuts that he needs to make on many routes to gain the separation he needs. Phillips also seems to find a way to fly under the radar on some plays, and make defenses look bad including his touchdown catch against Virginia.

Phillips was not as consistent as Isaiah Ford with a few games that he was held without a catch, but Phillips also had some big, productive games for the Hokies in 2014. The duo of Isaiah Ford and Cam Phillips is definitely the Hokies’ best starting tandem since Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale.

After the top two on the depth chart, the talent drops off at wide receiver with at least five players having a good chance at being the number 3 wide receiver for the Hokies.

It all starts with the speedy, experienced Demitri Knowles who will be looking to bounce back in his senior season after losing most his playing time in 2014. Knowles is more of a slot receiver, but isn’t as strong as Willie Byrn while not being a great route-runner either.

Kevin Asante seems to be a solid route-runner, but he is not as fast or athletic as most of the other wide receivers in this position battle. Asante left the team for a while, but returned last season and has worked his way up the depth chart into a position to earn some playing time.

Asante and Knowles are the two veterans that lead the pursuit of playing time as the slot wide receiver, but they are definitely not the two players that bring the most upside to the table. However, Knowles could be the guy to beat with his experience, speed, and past history of being productive for the Hokies.

What we can definitely expect is that Asante and Knowles will both have a chip on their shoulder, looking to earn significant playing time in their final season of college football.

Deon Newsome is an intriguing name to talk about as Scot Loeffler will likely use Newsome a lot on jet sweeps. Newsome is probably the Hokies’ fastest wide receiver and has been effective on jet sweeps and sometimes on screens.

Newsome might be the most athletic of the wide receivers battling for this opportunity, but he is also the smallest. However, Newsome is still very raw as a wide receiver, but could rise quickly depending on how much he develops his wide receiver skills.

Jaylen Bradshaw was a player to watch entering the spring, but ended the spring still in the middle of the battle for the third wide receiver battle. Bradshaw redshirted last season, and is seen as the highest-upside player in this battle. If Bradshaw can have the breakout fall practice that everybody expected in the spring, then Bradshaw should earn the number 3 wide receiver spot.

Joel Caleb may be the most intriguing as he was making the transition back to wide receiver this spring. Now that Caleb has made that transition, it will be interesting to see if he can earn the job. Caleb has very good size and toughness to make some of the tough catches over the middle out of the slot.

This could be a make-or-break fall practice for Bradshaw and especially Caleb with the Hokies already having four wide receivers committed from the Class of 2016. If this move to wide receiver doesn’t work for Caleb, you have to wonder if he might follow another player that struggled to fit in, Chris Mangus, and transfer away from Virginia Tech.

The official position of Coleman Fox is unknown right now, whether that will be running back or wide receiver. Fox seems to be another jack-of-all-trades player similar to Caleb and Mangus, and time will tell if he can find a role on the team. Charley Meyer and C.J. Carroll are both hard-working walk-ons, but don’t seem likely to climb up the depth chart much.

Projected WR Depth Chart vs. OSU

  1. Isaiah Ford
  2. Cam Phillips
  3. Demitri Knowles
  4. Jaylen Bradshaw
  5. Kevin Asante
  6. Deon Newsome
  7. Joel Caleb
  8. Coleman Fox
  9. Charley Meyer
  10. C.J. Carroll

The battle of the guys listed third through seventh on this list could go many ways, but Knowles’s past experience seems likely to help him keep the top spot. Meanwhile, Jaylen Bradshaw has the upside and will climb the depth chart while Deon Newsome will earn some playing time still as the jet sweep guy.

Joel Caleb just does not seem like someone that really fits the Hokies’ offense though the third through seventh spots on our wide receiver depth chart are not only very close, but seem likely to vary a lot during the regular season. However, what is certain is that the Hokies have two very productive starting wide receivers in Isaiah Ford and Cam Phillips.

Check out more of our 2015 Virginia Tech Football Preview right here.


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