Every year, there are always a couple newcomers who go from off-the-radar to leaving their mark in a positive manner during the opening game whether Tech wins or loses. In Week 1, two young wide receivers, Tayvion Robinson and Kaleb Smith, did just that.
While both Robinson and Smith left a strong impression on how they can be very productive receivers for the Hokies, both took very different paths to get to this point from Robinson being a former four-star recruit who didn't play WR in high school to Smith being a walk-on who chose the Hokies over ACC scholarship offers.
In his Virginia Tech debut at Chestnut Hill, Tayvion Robinson made six catches for 72 yards including a touchdown, which at the time gave the Hokies their first lead of the game. Robinson was also given a role in the special teams department as he returned two punts for a total of forty-five yards on the afternoon.
Robinson was asked on Tuesday what his emotions were like after scoring in his first game as a Hokie and had this to say.
“It was exciting, being able to score my first college touchdown… Just made an opportunity for myself and I scored,” Robinson said.
Tayvion Robinson was recruited to Virginia Tech as a wide receiver, but at Cox high school, the freshman played quarterback. That meant that in addition to having to learn a new offense, Robinson would have to learn a new position in order to earn immediate playing time.
While that transition did brings its challenges, Robinson also believes he benefited from playing QB in high school given the defensive schematic knowledge that QB requires.
“It was a little challenging having to switch to a completely new position. But it helped playing quarterback in high school being able to throw the ball and beat defenses. So, it wasn't that hard,” Robinson said.
Another difficult thing can be building chemistry and trust with the starting QB but based on what Ryan Willis said, it appears the Hokies' signal caller figured out during fall camp that he now had another dangerous receiver to work with.
“He’s got big play ability, he can make all the catches,” redshirt senior quarterback Ryan Willis said about Robinson at a press conference on Tuesday. “He’s a smart kid, he picked up on the offense really quickly, that’s a big thing for freshman, is just knowing the plays.”
While Robinson has had to overcome a position change, Kaleb Smith has had to overcome injury and a depth chart loaded with players that most would have probably thought he would be stuck behind.
Injuries have defined the road at times for Smith as the wide receiver sat out his senior season at Patrick Henry HS due to a back injury and redshirted last season as he adjusted. However, instead of injuries being the end of him, they're a major part of the story of the player he's become and the road he's taken to get to being a productive receiver as a redshirt freshman.
The road to getting back on the field sure reached a favorable destination on Saturday as Smith posted four catches for 62 yards including a highlight reel quality touchdown late in the fourth quarter to give the Hokies a sliver of hope against Boston College.
Despite this being his first live football game in years, Smith felt comfortable being on the field where he's been working to become a playmaker his entire career.
“It felt comfortable. Felt like what I have been training to do. What I've been doing all my life. So it's pretty easy," Smith said.
The one skill that people seem to notice about Smith is his quickness on the field with Ryan Willis taking notice of his speed.
“Not many guys can run like him. His stride length is kind of crazy. He doesn't look like he's moving fast and all of the sudden he gets on someone's toes and he's gone and he's running past them,” Willis said.
Smith's speed isn't the only thing as both Willis and Smith have a common bond as players who earned scholarships after walking on at Virginia Tech. In that, Willis has gotten a clear picture of the work ethic that he feels has helped Smith rise up the depth chart.
“He's battled through a lot, he's kind of rose up the depth chart, and that's just all due to his work ethic,” Willis said.
The Hokies may have fallen short last Saturday but Robinson and Smith made it clear that both of them will be players for Hokie fans to watch and be impressed by for years to come even as both of their roads to this point have looked a lot different.