Last season, the Virginia Tech Hokies lacked a slot wide receiver with Isaiah Ford and Cam Phillips being the only true WRs to receive serious playing time last season. However, the Hokies have improved their WR depth this offseason and actually have some competition for who will be the slot wide receiver this fall.
Fuente said backup WRs have come along but still have ways to go. Complimented Bradshaw, Murphy, Kumah, Carroll and Diablo. #Hokies
— Andy Bitter (@AndyBitterVT) August 14, 2016
Justin Fuente’s comments suggest that the Hokies should have the wide receiver depth that many believed they would gain from this recruiting class’s arrival after having almost no depth last season at WR. While some of these guys profile more on the outside and may not necessarily fit the role as a speedy slot guy, two of the five above listed names by Fuente are built as slot WRs.
The first is Henri Murphy, the JUCO transfer who reclassified from 2017 to 2016 and was recently released from his LOI at Henderson State to allow him to play this fall for the Hokies. The speedy Murphy was one of the top new targets that Fuente added to the board after being one of the few to be interested in him out of high school. Fuente’s loyalty to Murphy paid off with the Arkansas native choosing the Hokies and reclassifying to 2016 over the in-state Razorbacks.
Now, Murphy seems to be the favorite in the slot after the Hokies chose to put him at WR instead of CB. Murphy is a versatile, speedy playmaker who is quite dangerous in space whether it be off a quick pass or a quick screen that may be used more this year with the Hokies putting an emphasis on improving the blocking of their wide receivers.
Murphy will also be competing in track and field for the Hokies as a sprinter, showing how dangerous of a speedster he can be working as a slot wide receiver. Murphy also seems to be adapting quite well despite only arriving in June and at this point, the Arkansas native is the favorite to be the top slot WR.
However, the other pure slot guy won’t let Murphy earn that spot without a fight.
Former walk-on C.J. Carroll enters his redshirt sophomore year as someone who is already earning a reputation as another hard-working walk-on that continues to surprise fans and coaches. Carroll has gotten a decent amount of reps with the first team offense over the past year and despite the arrival of five new receivers from the Class of 2016, has maintained his spot as one of the top backups.
Carroll is one of the smallest players on the roster but he is not afraid of contact and like Murphy, has the speed and agility to be used as a return man this fall. Carroll is a lot like another former walk-on in Willie Byrn who developed into a quality slot receiver for the Hokies with reliable hands and great speed to do damage on quick slants and ins over the middle.
Carroll has proven how hard work can put anyone in a position to earn playing time at high levels of college football, but now has a tough task ahead to beat out Henri Murphy for the top slot WR spot.
Divine Deablo profiles as an outside guy who seems likely to be the top backup on the outside behind Isaiah Ford and Cam Phillips. Eric Kumah has finally gotten healthy and is emerging as another top backup WR, Kumah showed some skills to potentially be someone who could also work out of the slot but is more of an outside receiver that can occasionally be used out of the slot, similar to Cam Phillips.
Jaylen Bradshaw also seems to be more of an outside receiver though Bradshaw may also get some work in the slot as an older WR with the four freshmen all profiling more as outside guys.
Right now, Henri Murphy and C.J. Carroll have emerged as the frontrunners in the slot as two players who fit the prototypical slot description in addition to being complimented by Justin Fuente recently. Whether Murphy or Carroll gets the top slot spot, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Hokies play both out of that spot with Fuente’s preference to have six to eight solid WRs.