The Virginia Tech Hokies have a very talented trio of starting wide receivers led by All-American contender Isaiah Ford plus future high draft pick Bucky Hodges and veteran Cam Phillips. The trio of veteran receivers have gotten plenty of playing time this season though the Hokies have played some of their backup receivers this season.
While it’s clear that the Hokies’ WR depth has improved, Justin Fuente still isn’t satisfied yet.
Fuente: Not comfortable with the WR depth at all, not displeased with work of kids either, lots of youth #Hokies
— The Tech Lunch Pail (@techlunchpaild) September 26, 2016
Throughout the lead up to this season, Fuente and Brad Cornelsen both talked about how they like to ideally have 6 to 8 wide receivers and while there are a few who have come along some, they are definitely not in that ideal range currently.
The backup that has probably stood out the most is former walk-on and redshirt sophomore C.J. Carroll. Carroll has usually been the first backup receiver to come in the game working out of the slot opposite of Cam Phillips and has gotten a decent amount of playing time in Justin Fuente’s offense.
Carroll is the one backup receiver that Fuente definitely seems to be comfortable with as the redshirt sophomore has been used both in the passing game and in the rushing attack. So far, Carroll has four catches for 49 yards (though you could definitely argue he should’ve had a fifth on Saturday) plus 3 carries for 23 rushing yards.
Carroll reminds me a lot of Willie Byrn in his style as a tough, slot receiver with great speed and acceleration that can quickly create space and separation when in man coverage. Carroll is a natural speedy slot receiver that is developing into a solid option for the Hokies and could be poised for some big games down the road whether that be this season or later in his collegiate career.
Another redshirt sophomore wide receiver that seems to be gaining some confidence and playing time is Jaylen Bradshaw who had his first three career catches for 25 yards this past Saturday. Bradshaw received some playing time in the first half but Fuente used Bradshaw a lot in the third quarter while giving Isaiah Ford a lot of rest.
Bradshaw doesn’t have the same upside as some of the younger receivers that are behind him on the depth chart but the 757 native was fairly reliable during the third quarter. Bradshaw isn’t going to be a guy that beats a cornerback with his speed or size but Bradshaw has improved in some more technical areas along with having reliable hands to develop inot someone that Fuente can trust some to send out there with Jerod Evans and the first team offense.
Divine Deablo looked solid this spring but has struggled to gain that much playing time coming off the bench so far this season as he caught his first career pass for 8 yards this past week against ECU. However, Deablo is a guy who could end up being the top backup outside receiver off the bench by the end of the season.
Deablo has great size and athleticism and definitely has the makings of someone who can go up over the middle and make a play or go win a jump ball on the outside in the red zone. Maybe the biggest concern for Deablo currently is the fact that his hands are a work in progress after having a few drops in the Spring Game back in April.
After getting a good amount of playing time against Liberty, Henri Murphy has struggled to get much playing time since including not even playing against Tennessee. Murphy is a fairly raw receiver but the JUCO transfer has the potential to be a very dangerous weapon in the slot as Virginia Tech’s fastest player with great agility.
Murphy should be a guy that gains time over the course of the season as he gets more time to develop under Justin Fuente and Holmon Wiggins. Murphy definitely has the athleticism and speed to be a dangerous playmaker out otf the slot but the Hokies need the JUCO speedster to refine his game or he will continue to be the third slot guy behind Cam Phillips and C.J. Carroll.
Devin Wilson has touched the field some with the second team offense but the former basketball player is still raw as a receiver especially as a route runner. Wilson does have the athleticism to potentially develop into a red zone threat but for now, Wilson doesn’t seem in a position to make a big impact of the bench.
Eric Kumah has been the other true freshman receiver to receive playing time so far and could be a guy to keep an eye on late in the season. Currently, Kumah isn’t getting any playing time with the first team offense, and the decision not to play him will only come into greater question as long as Kumah doesn’t start getting playing time with the first team offense. However, Kumah could be a guy that emerges late in the season as one of the top backup receivers off the bench now that he is healthy.
Virginia Tech’s wide receiver depth is still a work in progress that Justin Fuente is rightfully not comfortable with but the potential is there for this unit to begin producing at a high level as the season progresses.