A year removed from Cam Phillips’ 14-reception, 189-yard performance against East Carolina just a year ago, the Hokies are looking for a new go-to deep threat capable of filling the shoes of a player like Phillips.
His record-breaking 14 catches are the most in a single game in school history and his three touchdowns the most by any skill player in a game last season, and it set the tone last season just three games in, proving that Josh Jackson had a target he could rely on down the field.
This season, the Hokies once against have the Pirates as their third matchup of the season, this time at home in Lane Stadium. For the Hokies, the question remains: Who is Jackson’s go-to deep threat? Enter Damon Hazelton, the redshirt sophomore from Baltimore, Maryland, who’s come onto the scene as an early favorite of Jackson in the first two games of the season. Hazelton, who transferred from Ball State after an impressive freshman season highlighted by a team-high four touchdown receptions, burst onto the scene in Blacksburg after a four-catch, 107-yard day against William and Mary in the home opener on Saturday. What makes Hazelton’s performance stand out is his 26.8 yards per reception, easily the highest on the team.
Hazelton’s best play of the day came on his 39-yard touchdown reception late in the first quarter that put Virginia Tech up 17–0 over the Tribe. Hazelton used a fantastic double move to beat the corner 10 yards off the line that made him wide open and gave Jackson an easy deep ball to further Tech’s lead. The play showed everything the Hokies need Hazelton to be, and everything Phillips was after that historic showing against the Pirates. Tech’s current wideout group has shown to be a versatile group so far in the season, but Hazelton has looked like the man to be the down-the-field threat that the Hokies so desperately need to keep their offense balanced.
Much like Phillips, Hazelton has also proven to be so much more than just a one-dimensional deep threat though. In his first game in a Hokie uniform, Hazelton scored an impressive back-shoulder touchdown off a fade route against Florida State on Tech’s opening drive this season. It’s fair to say that Hazelton may end up being the standout star that the Hokies receiver group needs, just like Phillips was last season, and could end up being the key to a win against the Pirates this Saturday.