With the Virginia Tech football season about to start in some form or another, it’s time to take a deeper look into Virginia Tech’s roster for the upcoming year. Over the next few weeks, we will be delving into the team, position by position, to get a deeper understanding of where we stand as a football team. I will grade every player on the roster on a 1-10 scale and create a makeshift depth chart for the season (Note: These grades are simply my opinions on each player based on prior knowledge, statistics and film study).
10 - Heisman Candidate
9 - All American
8 - All ACC
7 - Starter
6 - Backup
5 and Below - Not likely to play
Tré Turner - 7.7/10
Turner is well known in Blacksburg and has seen a good amount of success throughout his first two years in the program. He’s a deep threat as a receiver and has all the skills to be an elite player in the ACC. He is very good in contested catch situations and his speed makes him a dangerous threat after the catch. Not to mention his propensity to make plays downfield, running by defenders, which earned him the nickname “Big Play Tré” in just his first year on the team. Unfortunately, Turner showed some inconsistencies last year and struggled with drops throughout the season. If he can get past these mental lapses, and has continued to improve throughout the offseason, Turner has the potential to have his best season so far for the Hokies and be an integral part of the Virginia Tech offense.
Jaden Payoute - 7.4/10
A high school quarterback, Payoute’s grade is built almost entirely on his pedigree as an elite high school recruit. Though he is still learning the position, Payoute is undoubtedly one of the most talented players on the team. He has elite speed, size and run after the catch ability as a receiver. If he has developed even a decent route tree after a first-year redshirt he may just breakout as a special player this season.
Tayvion Robinson - 7.2/10
A pleasant surprise last season, Robinson, also a high school quarterback, showed high-level maturity and ability as both a slot receiver and a return man. A good route runner and sure handed receiver, Robinson is a very good player underneath. He lacks the athleticism and high end ability to play on the outside, but he may just become one of Hendon Hooker’s favorite targets as arguably the most consistent receiver on the team.
Darryle Simmons - 7.0/10
Simmons was a highly touted recruit out of high school but has not seen much playing time yet in Blacksburg. He has very good size and speed and is reminiscent of a certain big-time receiver for the New Orleans Saints on film. It is uncertain how he has played in practice, but he should battle with Payoute for the second outside receiver role opposite Turner this fall.
Elijah Bowick - 6.8/10
Bowick brings a nice skill set as route runner and contested catch specialist, he just couldn’t see the field in a crowded receiver room last fall. He has the upside to fight for playing time, but he may not be able to beat out the more talented Payoute or Simmons in training camp.
Evan Fairs - 6.6/10
Fairs lacks the upside or athleticism of the aforementioned players, but as a graduate transfer from Kansas, coach Fuente may elect to give him early playing time as the younger receivers continue to develop.
Kaleb Smith - 6.5/10
Smith saw some playing time last fall and played well against Boston College, but he seems to be in the same position as Fairs. He is a big bodied receiver without much upside, but he may see playing time due to experience.
Tink Boyd - N/A
Boyd was a walk-on coming onto campus a few seasons ago. Though he is only 5-foot-10, he brings a lot of athleticism to the position and has the ability to make some spectacular catches. Boyd may find his way onto the field eventually in Blacksburg.
Luke Bussel - N/A
A former quarterback making the switch to wide receiver, Bussel transferred from Fork Union Military Academy a few years ago. He brings some size to the position as a receiver over 6 feet tall, but not much else.
Jacob Van Landingham - N/A
Van Landingham is very similar to Bussell as a former quarterback still trying to learn the receiver position.
Nikia Peerman - N/A
Peerman brings size to the receiver position but he likely lacks the athleticism to see the field much at Virginia Tech.
William Kakavitsas - N/A
Another in the line of tall, slower receivers on the team, Kakavitsas continues a trend forming on the back end of the receiver room.
James Mitchell - 7.3/10
James Mitchell broke out last season playing alongside Dalton Keene and scoring six times. He brings a lot to the position as both a receiver and a blocker, with good ball skills and size. He should be a trusted weapon for Hendon Hooker this fall and possibly one of the better tight ends in the ACC. He has very good speed for the position and his history as a high school basketball player shows in his ability to grab contested catches. If things go well for Mitchell, he may just have a NFL future ahead of him.
Drake Deluliis - 7.0/10
Deluliis was an exciting prospect for many Hokie fans coming out of high school a few years ago. He brings elite size to the position at 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, but has yet to develop as a receiving threat. He should battle for the backup role this fall with Nick Gallo, and, if nothing else, his size should allow him to bring value to the team as a blocker.
Nick Gallo - 6.7/10
Gallo didn’t see the field last year as most of the tight end snaps were taken up by Keene and Mitchell. He is an elite blocker for such a young player, but his lack of speed will limit him in the receiving game.
Ty Eller - N/A
Eller was a little known transfer out of UNC Pembroke last season, but he looks to be a bit of a faster option at the tight end position if there is a need for a change of pace.
Cole Blaker - N/A
A former quarterback, Blaker brings more size to the position at 250 pounds; however, it will take more time for him to learn the position.
Sam Brooks - N/A
Brooks is very fast for a tight end out of high school, which could allow him some upside. He’s only 210 pounds though, so to see the field he will have to put on a lot of weight.