Though Virginia Tech is returning eight offensive starters from last season, Justin Fuente and the Hokies will have some true freshmen earning playing time on the offense in limited roles whether that's on the outside at receiver or as one of the Hokies' backup offensive lineman. Here's a look at the top three offensive true freshmen that are likely to see the field for Virginia Tech this fall.
WR Tre Turner
Tre Turner is the most well known of the Greensboro trio that came to Virginia Tech as part of the 2018 class and the former four-star wide receiver is also the most likely one to play this fall. Starting QB Josh Jackson has been among those impressed by Turner since his arrival in the spring.
Turner fits the physical profile for an outside receiver with his impressive 6'2'' frame but unlike many bigger receivers, Turner has the speed to give opposing cornerbacks nightmares and force safeties to given some exterior help at times, opening up space over the middle for speedier slot receivers.
Right now, Turner appears to be making a solid case to earn a spot in the Hokies' two-deep as a backup receiver. One of the biggest things to watch with Turner is whether the Hokies try to limit him to four games so that they can preserve a year of his eligibility or if he has earned a large enough role where the Hokies have no intent of considering pursuing a redshirt with him. If he does make the Hokies' two-deep, that will be likely a clear sign that the Greensboro native will have a role in VT's deepest WR corps of the Justin Fuente era.
The fact that Tre Turner is already starting to make some noise is a great sign that the former four-star WR will be able to develop into the type of playmaker that the Hokies knew they were getting when he committed.
TE James Mitchell
There isn't a true freshman skill position player on Virginia Tech's offense that has received more praise during fall camp than Southwest Virginia native James Mitchell. The former Union HS star has received praise from plenty of coaches including TEs coach James Shibest who is excited about Mitchell's long-term potential while also believing he could factor in for the Hokies this fall.
“He’s further along than we thought he would be coming in. He was very good in high school, but he was at a smaller level. They weren’t really good and he had to play a lot of different positions. He didn’t have to play a lot with his hand in the ground. As far as the physical part, we think he’s further ahead. He can run around and catch the ball. Depending on how we can use him and how he continues to come along with the run game will determine how much he will play. We have been very excited and we think he has a bright future," Shibest said.
Given that Mitchell did not play tight end in high school, a lot of the work that he has done at tight end has probably been simply developing his blocking and positional fundamentals. However, it's clear that Mitchell has not only proven to be very coachable, but that he's also picking up the position quite quickly.
His development as a tight end hasn't gone unnoticed by Justin Fuente as the Hokies' head coach tries to figure out whether Mitchell will be able to be used as more than just a Dallas Clark-type receiving tight end as a true freshman.
"The guy that we’re still trying to figure out is James Mitchell. You think about him coming from Southwest Virginia playing quarterback and wide receiver and free safety, then to go put your hand in the dirt and try to play tight end, his improvement on almost a daily basis has been noticeable. Really figuring out if he’s going to continue to improve is going to be important for us," Fuente said.
Though Mitchell still has a long way to grow as a blocker, he is much more developed as a receiver and could have an opportunity to play some like Drake DeIuliis was on the precipice of doing before suffering an injury against Boston College.
James Mitchell is poised to have a role this fall for the Hokies though it's unclear how much time he will spend as a receiver and how much time he will spend as a more traditional tight end.
OT Christian Darrisaw
Christian Darrisaw isn't your normal true freshman after signing as a part of the 2017 class and spending this past fall at Fork Union as Silas Dzansi did the year before, preserving a year of eligibility. Darrisaw arrived this spring and over the past several months, the Maryland native has emerged as the likely backup left tackle for Virginia Tech behind Dzansi.
Earlier in fall camp, OL coach Vance Vice shared his excitement about Darrisaw and expected backup left guard Lecitus Smith.
“I’m super, super excited about those guys. There is definitely an opportunity for them right now. As soon as September 3rd, but they need to get better every day. They are pushing some people right now and those guys in front of them are well aware of who they are. I’ve had them working together on the left [side], but they have everything it takes to be successful at Virginia Tech. The only thing that they lack is experience, that’s it,” Vice said.
When Darrisaw was coming out of high school, one of the consistent things that was said was that he was very raw as a prospect, making a stop at Fork Union an ideal situation as it was for Silas Dzansi. At that time, Darrisaw was seen as a multi-year developmental guy like Dzansi though his impressive past several months has set him up to push for the open starting right tackle job next spring after Yosuah Nijman's graduation.
Though Darrisaw isn't your traditional true freshman, he is the one true freshman that is almost guaranteed to be on the Hokies' first two-deep next week.
Photo Credit: Harley Taylor
Stay up with The Tech Lunch Pail for the latest on Virginia Tech. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to our email updates.