A big question going into this football season is the depth at several different positions. One of these positions is the wide receiver corps — a position that plays a vital part in the offensive scheme of Justin Fuente. There are a couple established players who will play a major role in the new playbook, but who is behind Isiah Ford, Bucky Hodges and Cam Phillips?
Everyone knows about the established receivers, especially Ford and Hodges, considering how much of the offensive workload they were involved with last season. Ford is being touted as a breakout player this year and Hodges is starting to get talked about as an early departure for the NFL draft. Cam Phillips began to show flashes of improvement towards the middle of last season and was much more reliable by the end of the season. That was the problem last year though — the lack of depth behind those main three players made it very difficult for the offense to have consistent success.
Fuente and his offense values lots of wide receivers and their ability to substitute in and out, keeping a high-tempo pace the entire game all while keeping a general sense of continuity with the rest of the offense. That wouldn’t be possible with just three receivers. Luckily, there seems to be a few options behind the main three. Let me introduce you to Divine Diablo, Eric Kumah, Devin Wilson and Patrick Patterson.
Deablo is a true freshman who has been here since the spring, and has really impressed coaches with his ability to get up to speed with the offense and put himself in a position to be successful. He has some size, and has the quickness to get up the field. Combine those two traits, and there is some possibilities of some jump balls thrown his way.
Kumah is a player that can fit into Fuentes’ scheme in a much different, but critical way. While he has size — 6’2″, 210 pounds — he also shows a great willingness to block downfield. In the offense that Fuente and Co. runs, blocking is a key role for springing plays and allowing for bigger gains. While all of the receivers are bound to be out there blocking, having a player that makes it one of his priorities will make a strong impact on the field.
Wilson has the been question mark of the offseason. He tried out for the football team after being a mainstay on the basketball team for several seasons, and made the roster in the spring. He played football in high school, and was pretty decent at it as well, so it’s not like he’s trying something completely new. He has height, and has shown flashes of athleticism that can factor into his ability to get playing time. He might not be the next up on the depth chart after the top three, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get some playing time this year.
Patterson is a wide receiver that committed to Virginia Tech while Beamer was still the head coach, de-committed once Beamer announced his retirement, and then was convicted by Fuente’s staff to stay with Virginia Tech. He has the ability to go up and high-point the ball, something that is beneficial when the ball is thrown down the field or in goal line situations where a corner fade is being thrown.
Also keep an eye out for C.J Carroll. While he isn’t a newcomer to the program, he has made big strides in the offseason. Carroll has been practicing almost entirely in the slot position. With Fuente and his fast hitting style of offense, the slot is a popular position as it matches the receivers up with less agile linebackers and safeties. This new matchup could help the smaller Carroll get open more often during the upcoming season.
With the announcement of Jerod Evans as the starting quarterback come September 3rd, it should give the new guys more of a chance to mesh during practice. Hopefully, this leads to the ability for Fuente to trust the younger and newer receivers and to keep the high-tempo offense going up and down the field.