There were signs as last season moved along that the rhetoric about all the raw talent redshirt sophomore Marcus Davis possessed was starting to come to fruition.
From his six-catch day against Duke to that two-touchdown performance in a win at North Carolina, Davis seemed to finally be growing more comfortable with his switch from a star high school quarterback to college wide receiver.
But Davis’s true breakout moment may be going on before our eyes as he prepares for his redshirt junior season. Davis leads all Virginia Tech receivers this spring with eight catches for 108 yards, but more significantly, he’s now shaking up the status quo within the Hokies’ deepest and most experienced position group.
Redshirt senior Danny Coale has started all but one game at the flanker wide receiver spot the past three seasons, and had 20 catches for 335 yards in Virginia Tech’s final four games of 2010. But wide receivers coach Kevin Sherman said Wednesday that Davis is now tied with Coale atop the flanker depth chart, and the competition for that starting job will likely stretch into the summer.
“Each year the confidence level has gone up. His whole game has changed; his whole attitude has changed,” said Sherman, who added that he wasn’t surprised Davis is challenging Coale. “I tell our guys every year, ‘We’re gonna play our producers.’ It’s nothing personal. We’re gonna put our best 11 on the field that give us a chance to win every weekend.”
Davis has always had the physical tools to be a star — this past offseason the 6-foot-4, 239-pounder set a Virginia record with a 44-inch vertical jump, was clocked at 4.35 in the 40-yard dash and completed a 405-pound squat. But he lacked enough polish in his route running and blocking, the result of never playing wide receiver in high school.
Davis said his play last season, when he finished with a career-high 19 catches and 239 yards receiving, provided the base for his strong spring this year. But there’s more to his ascendence up the depth chart, and it seems it has a lot to do with accountability.
“In a way [last season] did help, but then again it was just always my mentality to come in this spring and step up because of all the seniors we lost last year,” Davis said. “This year it’s a different group. Last year was a lot of talkers, a lot of big playmakers, so this year it’s kind of quiet. We’re just like that. But now it’s gonna take us to step up and be leaders even though we’re not the seniors.”
Added Sherman: “It was just waiting for him to take control and execute. He knows what he’s capable of doing.”
In other wide receiver news, senior Jarrett Boykin remains the starter at split end, and seems to have recovered from the groin injury that kept him out of last Saturday’s full scrimmage. He caught a team-high six passes for 61 yards in Wednesday’s mini-scrimmage.
Boykin’s back-up right now is junior D.J. Coles, a converted high school running back who missed parts of last season with a knee injury, has also impressed Sherman this spring.
“It’s come easy to him because he’s used to playing in space,” Sherman said. “I think when he sees himself on film playing fast and making plays, he can be a producer for us. We’ve got to be consistent. I think that’s the word with all these guys: consistency.”