Last year, Virginia Tech brought in some talented wide receivers including Phil Patterson who, though he arrived in the summer, was expected by most to earn a backup role and avoid redshirting. While Patterson proved to be quite talented, the 757 receiver was unable to break through and avoid being redshirt, something that appeared ot be a sign of how hard it would be for a receiver to earn playing time as a true freshman if they didn't arrive in the spring.
Entering this fall, VT had a pair of true freshman receivers that seemed likely to receive playing time in Caleb Farley and Kalil Pimpleton, both of whom arrived in the spring. Unfortunately, Farley suffered a well-publicized torn ACL that will cause him to miss the season, but Pimpleton is still on course to play this fall for the Hokies.
The Hokies also had a pair of true freshman receivers arrive this summer with Sean Savoy receiving the greater attention with many believing that Savoy could have a chance to earn early playing time in the slot. While Savoy is on pace to have some sort of role, it's the other receiver that arrived this summer that is surprising the coaches and is well on his way to playing as a true freshman.
“Hezekiah (Grimsley) has had an excellent fall camp. I don’t know if he’s missed a rep. He doesn’t know what he’s doing but he’s in there and he’s working his butt off and he’s learning, he’s been one of the surprises for me at camp, not that we didn’t think he had talent, but just how quickly he has jumped in there. Last week, half the time, he’s in there with the ones, going against the one's defense. We’re really proud of him and expect him to be a guy that probably plays for us this year. His future is bright, he’s had a great camp, shown a lot of toughness and competitiveness, he’s still got a long ways to go to learn how to do everything the way we want it done, but he's just a great kid, has really worked his butt off, we’re excited about him.” - Brad Cornelsen on Hezekiah Grimsley (August 14th)
Hezekiah Grimsley has flown under the radar more than any other freshman receiver with most expecting Grimsley to redshirt this fall. Instead, Grimsley had surpassed expectations of just about everyone, including the coaches, and is well on his way to having a role on offense this fall.
Grimsley has had to make a lot of adjustments simply due to the fact that he's going from an run-heavy offense at Lafayette High School to working in a more traditional, collegiate spread offense that will force Grimsley to develop himself as a receiver and have a significantly larger route tree. While the Hokies have even had guys like Farley and Pimpleton transitioning from QB to WR, those guys arrived earlier and had a full spring to adjust to a new position whereas Grimsley only has fall camp to adapt to an offense that is much different than the one he played in at Lafayette High School.
However, Grimsley showed plenty of promise in high school that he could be a dynamic playmaker for the Hokies at wide receiver with over 900 receiving yards and VHSL 4A All-State First Team honors as a junior and senior. What may be the most impressive stat is how Grimsley averaged just over 28 yards per reception as a junior, something that is simply incredible at any level of football and is just one sign of the playmaking potential Grimsley has.
Grimsley doesn't have great size for an outside receiver at around 6 feet tall, but we've seen smaller receivers do well on the outside and not just work exclusively in the slot. In some ways, Grimsley has a similar skill set to Cam Phillips as a receiver with great speed and separation ability that can work on the outside or in the slot with that versatility likely to be beneficial for Grimsley receiving playing time.
Now before you get too excited about Hezekiah Grimsley, it's notable that Brad Cornelsen did say that the 757 native still has a lot of learning and development to do, something that shouldn't surprise anyone given the type of offense he came and the fact that he just arrived this summer. Grimsley will most likely be behind slightly older guys like Phil Patterson and Eric Kumah on the depth chart especially after the praise Kumah has received for having a great camp after a strong spring and how Patterson was one of three receivers specifically mentioned in a comment by Josh Jackson on building chemistry with the first team with the other two being VT's two proven receivers, Cam Phillips and CJ Carroll.
However, what is clear is that Grimsley should have a role and avoid a redshirt this fall especially with Justin Fuente wanting to have as many as 8 receivers that he can use and Brad Cornelsen saying that Grimsley is someone who "probably plays for us this year." Of course, there is time for things to change, but it's clear that Grimsley has put himself in position to play this fall.
However, Grimsley has the skills to have a role on this team beyond how Justin Fuente and Brad Cornelsen use him on offense.
While Henri Murphy and Greg Stroman seem locked in as the kick and punt returners respectively, Grimsley could also factor in as a backup due in part to his speed and explosiveness along with how he was an elite return man in high school who earned All-State honors. Grimsley was better as a punt returner and with the Hokies having no proven cornerbacks behind their talented trio on the depth chart, there is a possibility that VT could look to replace Stroman on punt returns at times especially in less-contested games to not only build some depth but also prevent an injury like the one Stroman suffered on a punt return against Duke last year, a role that Grimsley likely is competing for.
Going into fall camp, Hezekiah Grimsley seemed like a safe bet to be redshirted as the least-talked about wide receiver transitioning from a run-heavy offense to Justin Fuente's more pass-heavy offense. Now, Grimsley is well on his way to earning playing time this fall as one of the biggest (and pleasant) surprises of fall camp as a backup receiver.
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