Virginia Tech decided to light a fire under its wide receiving corps during the bye week.
The team’s latest depth chart revealed that there is no true No. 1 option anymore, with seniors Corey Fuller and Marcus Davis listed as the top split ends and senior Dyrell Roberts and redshirt freshman Demitri Knowles considered the top flankers.
Wide receivers coach Kevin Sherman said recently he was seeking more consistency from the group, and an egalitarian approach going forward could be the solution for it. The Hokies currently have the third-most passing plays of 40 or more yards (11) in the country this year, but the offense has come under scrutiny because of periodic lapses in crucial sequences.
“It sends the message that you better be busting it all the time,” Sherman told Frank Beamer’s official Web site this week. “If any of our guys think they can relax because they’re arrived, they’ve got that dead wrong.”
Davis and Roberts have started every game this season, and Davis has a team-high 33 catches for 643 yards and four touchdowns. Fuller has seen his role increase with senior D.J. Coles sidelined for the season with a knee injury and is currently Virginia Tech’s second-leading receiver with 25 catches for 503 yards and four touchdowns. Roberts has 22 catches for 280 yards and a touchdown.
Seeing the first action of his college career, Knowles has just 10 catches for 152 yards. But his speed has allowed him to score a crucial fourth-quarter touchdown against Georgia Tech to start the season and return a kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown earlier this month at North Carolina.
Davis and Fuller actually have more receiving yards than their counterparts from a year ago – record-setting wide receivers Danny Coale and Jarrett Boykin – had through eight games. Davis is even on pace to become the first Virginia Tech player to finish with more than 1,000 yards receiving.
But they both have fewer catches than Coale and Boykin, emblematic of an offense that has proven capable of exploding for big plays but unable to string together longer, sustained drives. Statistics also don’t do justice for the drop-off in perimeter blocking Virginia Tech’s run game has suffered this season with Coale and Boykin graduated and Coles out for the year.
“I think there’s a possibility we’re playing some guys too much,” Beamer said Tuesday when asked about the depth chart maneuvering. “We want good competition and we want to get Knowles in the ball game because I think he can do things. Corey Fuller has been very, very good all year long. He’s been exceptional. I think trying to have a fresh receiver in the ball game and have good competition at that wide receiver position cause competition makes everyone better. That’s the big picture.”
Though there has been much more grousing about Virginia Tech’s offense this year, there’s a good chance quarterback Logan Thomas will surpass his passing and total offense numbers from 2011, even if the Hokies fall short of the ACC championship game and only play 13 games this season.
Thomas is currently on pace to finish with 3,588 total yards and throw for more than 3,104 yards in a 13-game season, which would rank No. 1 and No. 2 in Virginia Tech history in those respective categories. Should the Hokies qualify for the ACC championship game, Thomas could set both marks.
He thinks part of the success is due to the competition going on in Virginia Tech’s wide receiving corps of late.
“I definitely think that they’re pushing them. Demitri and Corey, I mean you can already list Corey as a number one for as much as he plays anyway,” Thomas said.
“They’re pushing up on those guys, but it’s not to say Marcus and Dyrell aren’t doing their own thing. They’re doing a great job as well, but Demitri — I guess he’s the youngest of them — so he’s come a long way and we’re going to have to rely on him in the upcoming games and also next year when it’s his turn.”