The past few days, freshman wide receiver Joshua Stanford has been trying his best not to dwell on the near-misses that kept him from a breakout day during Virginia Tech’s first scrimmage of training camp this past Saturday.
A three-star prospect during the recruiting process, Robinson has been a pleasant surprise since arriving on campus, impressing coaches with his maturity and play-making ability. He could even be in line for early playing time with senior D.J. Coles still on the mend from offseason knee surgery.
But a spot on the Hokies’ travel roster is hardly a guarantee at this point, and Stanford is well aware of that.
“Whether it happens or doesn’t happen . . . I just got to brush that off and make sure I come back and give the football team the best opportunity the next time,” he said. “My mind is on the scrimmage tomorrow.”
Wednesday evening’s scrimmage, Virginia Tech’s final scrimmage before the regular season begins, will go a long way toward determining the immediate future of Stanford and a select few freshmen.
Play-caller Mike O’Cain said Tuesday that most of the team’s redshirt decisions are set, but the offensive coaches are still on the fence about whether to play wide receiver Joel Caleb, running back Trey Edmunds or Stanford this year. The defense, meanwhile, must evaluate its freshmen defensive backs, with Virginia Tech’s secondary depth so thin these days.
But making a decision can be a speculative process for the coaching staff, because often they aren’t expecting a freshman to be able to contribute as soon as the season starts.
“The problem is you’ve got to project,” Virginia Tech Coach Beamer said. “Five games down the road, where are you and where would this guy be? There’s so much unknown, so that’s what makes it tough.”
In Edmunds’s case, the issue isn’t talent. On Tuesday, Beamer compared his running style to former Virginia Tech great Kevin Jones because “he’s got that burst like him.”
“I think his mind’s tying up his feet a little bit right now, but if we can just get one move there and go, he’s very natural,” Beamer added. “He’s very natural in the hole with people around him, with defenders around him. But in this game, I think you can start looking too much and while you’re looking people are gaining ground on you, closing on you.”
The depth chart is Edmund’s true enemy right now. Even as position coach Shane Beamer said redshirt freshman Michael Holmes remains the projected opening day starter, he also praised Edmunds’s combination of speed, power and explosiveness, calling him “a load to bring down” if his pad level is good.
But Edmunds has yet to eclipse freshman J.C. Coleman, converted fullback Martin Scales and senior Tony Gregory because he’s still learning the nuances of Virginia Tech’s offense.
“It’s hard to play four tailbacks, much less five,” Beamer said. “I told Trey yesterday, whether he redshirts or not is still to be determined, but in my mind you’ve got to bring something to the table and be better than those guys and they’re pretty good right now.”
Stanford and Caleb face similar dilemmas heading into Wednesday’s scrimmage. The Hokies have seniors Marcus Davis, Dyrell Roberts, Corey Fuller as well as redshirt freshmen Demetri Knowles and Kevin Asante listed ahead of the first-year players on the depth chart (and Coles, when he’s back).
As the depth chart stands now, Stanford would be on Virginia Tech’s travel roster. But Asante and Fuller were Virginia Tech’s leading receivers in the first scrimmage, and they too realize the time has come to make an impression before the season begins in full.
“Anytime it’s scrimmage time, that’s when it’s serious,” Asante said.