BLACKSBURG, Va., Sept. 7 -- Barring some sort of collapse during workouts later this week, Virginia Tech's first four wide receivers, the starters and backups at split end and flanker, will be freshmen in Saturday's game against Western Michigan.
"I want our best players on the field and [to] give them a chance," Coach Frank Beamer said. "If they can get it done in practice, that's who's going to be on the field. . . . We'd probably be the only team in the country that would have four freshmen be our first receivers."
The shakeup means redshirt junior Chris Clifton and fifth-year senior Richard Johnson -- who each played more than 40 snaps during the season-opening loss to Southern California -- fall to the third team.
Redshirt freshman Josh Hyman, the starter last week at flanker, will start at split end Saturday, with freshman Eddie Royal (Westfield) moving from backup to starter at flanker. Freshmen Josh Morgan (H.D. Woodson) and Justin Harper are behind Hyman and Royal, respectively.
"That's cool," said Hyman. Clifton and Johnson "still are the leaders, taught all us young guys. Every question, we run to them."
Hyman had quite a debut, making his first collegiate catch a 12-yard touchdown from quarterback Bryan Randall midway through the second quarter. He grabbed the pass around the 10, and sidestepped a defender near the right sideline at about the 5 before skipping into the end zone.
"I called it," Hyman said. "Before I went in the game, I told one of the trainers: 'Give me a drink of that water. I'm about to go score the touchdown. Be right back.' That made it better."
Royal is the most versatile of the fleet freshmen, listed as No. 1 on kickoff and punt returns in addition to starting at flanker. He returned two kickoffs for 29 yards each against the Trojans, had 10 snaps on offense but no catches.
"It's a lot quicker than I thought," Royal said of his ascension. "My biggest improvement has been reading defenses, the different coverages. . . . I'd been thinking too much sometimes. You've got to trust that you know what you're doing, play relaxed and smart. I felt pretty confident [against USC], not overly anxious or rattled."
Imoh May Be Redshirted
Beamer said the possibility of versatile junior Mike Imoh (Robinson) being redshirted this season "has been discussed."
Imoh has been a backup at tailback and wide receiver his first two seasons and was third nationally in kickoff returns last season with a 30.5-yard average. He was suspended for the first three games this season after being convicted in mid-May on three misdemeanor counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor that stemmed from a late-January party in the apartment of quarterback Marcus Vick and defensive back Brenden Hill.
Vick was sentenced to 30 days in jail and fined $2,250, Hill to 15 days in jail and a $1,500 fine and Imoh 10 days in jail and a $750 fine. All three appealed and are awaiting retrial. Imoh's retrial is scheduled for the days immediately before Tech's third game on Sept. 18. He has been playing the opponent's top runner during practices.