Our countdown of Virginia Tech's top position battles continues today with a look at outside wide receiver where Cam Phillips has one spot locked down, but the other spot is wide open.
Virginia Tech has a lot of talented but young receivers on the outside with the starter certain to be someone who hasn't been in the program for more than a year and a half. Despite that inexperience, all three of these guys are ready to produce this fall and give the Hokies some depth on the outside, but any one of these 3 receivers could earn the open starting job.
The Spring Leader: Eric Kumah
Eric Kumah played sparingly on offense as a freshman but Justin Fuente always had him on the sideline ready in case of injury with Kumah getting a few snaps in the Belk Bowl and throughout the season on offense while also playing some on special teams. Entering the spring, Kumah flew under the radar with most the attention being on talented WR Phil Patterson and though Patterson had a solid spring, there may not have been a returning Hokie who had a better spring than Kumah.
Kumah received lots of praise from the staff as the spring went along with Fuente making it clear that he was plenty comfortable with Kumah being out at wide receiver and mentioned how Kumah benefited from travelling with the team and playing a few snaps last season.
Kumah is a traditional receiver as a bigger, physical player that has proven in practice that he can win some 50-50 balls. Kumah isn't a guy that is going to blow the top off the defense, but he does look like someone who can make plenty of plays with good athleticism to go up and get the balls along with having some solid, technical receiving skills that are above-average for a receiver of his age.
Kumah may not have the highest ceiling of these 3, but he proved to the coaches this spring that he can be a productive starting receiver for the Hokies. For now, Kumah has the lead for the starting receiver job, but still has a lot of work ahead to win the job.
The 757 Playmaker: Phil Patterson
Phil Patterson arrived in the summer last year, making it very difficult to avoid the redshirt that he ended up taking. However, Patterson has grasped the offense fairly well and after redshirting in 2016, the 757 native is ready to make an impact on the field in 2017.
Not long after Justin Fuente arrived in Blacksburg, Fuente evaluated a bunch of 2016 wide receivers' highlight tapes with one receiver standing out to him. That receiver was Phil Patterson.
Patterson has great speed that can make him a big play threat and blow the top off defenses while he has good size and is a very good athlete who definitely has the potential to become quite good at winning 50-50 balls. Patterson has definitely improved as a route runner and should be able to make plays not only on deep routes but also on quick passes and shorter routes.
Patterson didn't travel with the team due to being redshirted, but Justin Fuente did consider playing Patterson last fall, a sign of how much Patterson impressed Fuente in a season in which only a few receivers even played with VT's first team offense. Phil Patterson will definitely gets his chance now to make an impact and has the talent to earn a starting spot this fall.
The Phenom Freshman: Caleb Farley
Caleb Farley spent most the spring at cornerback, but when the Hokies let Farley work at wide receiver for the final few spring practices and the Spring Game, it became clear that Farley would be best off playing wide receiver.
Farley was the star of the Spring Game as the early enrollee made multiple big plays showing he has a special combination of speed, size, and athleticism that gives him the potential to be an immediate star and a future playmaker on Sunday. In addition to the big plays he made, Farley drew three pass interference class with Brandon Facyson covering him as even the Hokies' redshirt senior CB had issues against the true freshman.
This wasn't the first time that Farley had impressed as wide receiver as the high school QB impressed many scouts at the Shrine Bowl (game for best recruits in the Carolinas).
Farley is raw as a route runner, but he showed in the Spring Game that even after a few practices, he was able to run some basic routes well including a slant that drew one of the three Brandon Facyson pass interferences.
Farley's ability to claim the starting outside WR job will depend some on his ability to develop the technical parts of his game but as an athlete, Farley is a special talent unlike any the Hokies have had at wide receiver with the skills to win 50-50 balls and burn many defensive backs.
Caleb Farley is a future star for the Hokies who may break into the starting lineup sooner than you may think.
Prediction: Caleb Farley
While Phil Patterson and Eric Kumah are two talented receivers in their own right that will be productive for Virginia Tech, Caleb Farley is a special talent unlike any I've seen for the Hokies at WR and has the raw talent to be a Freshman All-American for the Hokies. Farley was one of the biggest steals of the 2017 recruiting cycle with the Hokies set to benefit from a player who flew shockingly under the radar that VT also beat South Carolina to get.
Farley is going to be a star and while it may be difficult to see him starting week 1, that just shows how talented of an athlete and player he is. Some may compare Farley's situation to Phil Patterson, but Patterson came in behind 3 of Virginia Tech's best all-time receivers, not just one while Farley forced Fuente's hand this spring to put him permanently at WR and end the cornerback experiment with him.
No matter who wins this job, you can expect that Farley, Kumah, and Patterson will all get plenty of playing time this fall as the Hokies should have one of their deepest receiving groups even though it may not have nearly the same amount of proven talent that last year's group had.
Coming up, we'll take a look at the battle in the slot along with a look at the one big defensive position battle tomorrow.
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