The moment Virginia Tech wide receiver Marcus Davis arrived on campus four years ago, he was hailed as one of the best athletes to ever come through the program. Teammates and coaches were in awe over how a 6-foot-4, 234-pound specimen could have a school-record 43-inch vertical jump and run the 40-yard dash in less than 4.4 seconds.
The only problem was that Davis’s production on the field has never matched his acclaim off it. But on the cusp of his final collegiate season, he has a simple answer for what has separated him from the monster year so many around Blacksburg have predicted.
“Playing behind two great receivers that are in the NFL,” Davis said matter-of-factly.
Indeed, Davis has been stuck behind record-setting wideouts Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale throughout his career. In 2012, though, he could finally grab hold of the spotlight.
Coming off a season in which he finished with career highs in catches (30), receiving yards (510) and touchdowns (5), Davis will be the Hokies’ go-to deep threat and could take on an even more important role if fellow wide receiver D.J. Coles misses part of the season recovering from offseason knee surgery.
Earlier this offseason, he was named to the Biletnikoff Award watch list as a candidate to be the nation’s top wide receiver.
“Marcus Davis is one of the freakiest athletes I’ve seen in my life,” quarterback Logan Thomas said recently. “He led our team in yards per reception last year, and that shows what he can do with the ball in his hands. He was sitting behind Danny, which was a tough out for Marcus. But at the same time, this year’s his time to shine. Hopefully I can get him the ball quick and early, short and deep and just let him make plays.”
But talent and potential have never been the issue for Davis, a prolific quarterback at Ocean Lakes High in Virginia Beach. At first, it was learning the nuances of a new position. Now, the coaching staff is looking for Davis to show off his remarkable athletic skills on a regular basis.
“He’s got tremendous talent and learning to play up to that talent level every play, full speed every play. It’s kind of hard to put in words when you say full speed, but running a pass route hard. Not letting what the defense does to him slow him down,” play-caller Mike O’Cain said recently. “That’s the biggest thing, because once he gets his hands on the ball he has tremendous running abilities. He has great speed. He’s a tremendous target. He’s got all of those things. It’s just the consistency of playing everything as hard as you can.
“It’s not because he takes plays off, but I think he lets the defense affect him some and creates, whether it should or shouldn’t, some doubt in his mind and that slows him down.”
For his part, Davis seems to have embraced being a redshirt senior in his last go-around. Coaches have raved about his maturation and dedication this offseason, hopeful it’s the sign that Davis has finally turned the corner.
That’s not to say Davis hasn’t had his moments already in a Hokies uniform. In 2010 at North Carolina he led Virginia Tech to a victory with four catches for 81 yards and two touchdowns, an electric performance that was bittersweet for Davis because he was told during the game that a cousin in Virginia Beach had died.
Last year, he exploded for a career-high 140 receiving yards in Virginia Tech’s season opener against Appalachian State. He then closed the regular season with five catches for 119 yards against Virginia. But Davis has never strung together consecutive 100-yard games.
The Hokies are counting on that fact changing this year.
“A big thing I’ve been working on all summer is my consistency. It’s something that everyone wants to see — to play a complete season,” Davis said. “Playing behind Danny, I learned that when I had the chance to do something, to make the most of it. So now I’m the front-runner, I’ve got to make those chances plays every single time. I can’t take no plays off. Can’t be lazy. I’ve got to go out and give it 100 [percent] every time I’m out there.”