Throughout the season, Justin Fuente has mentioned that while the Hokies’ backup wide receivers have been working hard in practice, Fuente was still not comfortable with the depth that he has at the wide receiver spot.
While Fuente hasn’t been asked about that recently, the lack of rest that guys like Isaiah Ford, Bucky Hodges, and Cam Phillips have been getting during games show how the Hokies’ wide receiver depth is still not in great shape.
Of course, the Hokies have seen the emergence of CJ Carroll who has started to gain fairly regular playing time with the first team as a second slot receiver to compliment Cam Phillips while also allowing Phillips to get rest or to rotate outside and let Hodges or Ford get some rest during a game. So far, Carroll has 6 catches for 81 receiving yards and seems to have the trust of the Hokies’ offensive staff to get around 20-30 snaps per game.
Virginia Tech has also used guys like Sam Rogers and Travon McMillian in the slot while Chris Cunningham has gotten a decent amount of passing snaps including a fairly high amount in the red zone, leading to his 2 receiving touchdowns that are tied for fourth on the team.
However, none of these guys mentioned above are true outside receivers and with Phillips being more of a slot guy, the Hokies need some guys on the outside to step up behind Ford and Hodges, and give the Hokies some much-needed depth.
The one veteran the Hokies have on the outside is redshirt sophomore wide receiver Jaylen Bradshaw. Bradshaw made his first big collegiate impact with 3 catches for 25 yards against East Carolina with Bradshaw getting lots of third quarter reps with Jerod Evans and most of the first team offense while Justin Fuente gave Isaiah Ford some rest.
However, we have rarely seen Bradshaw with the first team offense since and while Bradshaw isn’t a player with high upside, he did show signs of developing into a solid backup that could be rotated in some. That hasn’t been the case so far and with Bradshaw’s limited upside, you have to wonder if we’ll see much of Bradshaw at any point or if his future may end up being at a Group of 5 FBS or FCS program.
Divine Deablo was one of the three early enrollees and while he did play a few snaps against Syracuse, Deablo has not consistently become someone that the Hokies have brought into the game as it seemed like after his strong spring.
However, no one should panic about Deablo as many saw Deablo as a fairly raw talent with great athleticism and tons of potential to develop into a talented outside receiver. One issue Deablo had was with drops as there were a couple passes that Deablo dropped in the Spring Game that he should have had. Deablo also showed in that Spring Game that he was still fairly raw as a receiver but he also showed that he has plenty of upside to his great athleticism and size combination.
Going forward, no one should be surprised if see Divine Deablo starts to start getting some regular snaps with the first team offense.
The one under-the-radar guy to watch to step up into a backup receiver role is freshman Eric Kumah whose redshirt was burnt a couple weeks ago in garbage time. Injuries derailed Kumah this spring but he got healthy and put himself in contention to get some playing time this fall.
Kumah has mostly only touched the field on special teams and while it’s good that he’s earned that role, not redshirting him isn’t looking like a great decision right now. Right now, Kumah seems to be the sleeper to watch as the man who could surprise a lot of people and jump into a regular backup receiver role for the rest of the season.
Virginia Tech needs someone to step up on the outside behind Ford and Hodges and if someone is going to take that role in 2016, it’ll be one of these three guys.
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