No Danny Coale, no Jarrett Boykin: no problem.
The Virginia Tech Hokies entered the spring losing one of their best receiving combinations in Coale and Boykin. It’s not easy to replace a total of 121 receptions, 1,665 receiving yards and eight touchdowns from a year ago, but that is what this receiving corps will be tasked with this upcoming season.
The loss of Coale and Boykin will no doubt hurt, but with Marcus Davis, Dyrell Roberts and D.J. Coles, the transition looks to be a bit easier.
“Don’t get me wrong, Jarrett and Danny were great players. We’re definitely gonna miss them. They gave a lot of production when they were here,” Roberts said. “I think we have the potential to not have a drop off, and just fill in as we come and continue the success that we’ve been having.”
The trio of Davis, Roberts and Coles does have experience to go along with their talent and athletic ability. In order to be successful, they are going to have to take on leadership roles and help this receiving corps reach its full potential.
Wide receivers coach Kevin Sherman will be counting on them, along with redshirt-senior Corey Fuller, to be those go-to guys, not only on the field for Logan Thomas, but also off the field for the younger players at their position.
“We have Roberts, Marcus (Davis) and Fuller,” Sherman said. “Those guys have played a lot of games and been in big games, so I’m counting on those guys to step up and bring the younger guys along when I’m not around.”
The receivers are not the only ones that will have to get used to the absence left by Coale and Boykin — Thomas has to adjust to throwing to different receivers. The only players returning Thomas has had real time with is Davis and Coles, as Roberts sat out most of last season with injury.
The timing has been off between Thomas and his receivers so far throughout the spring, and it is showing in the scrimmages and practice. Thomas and the receivers are getting frustrated with the dropped passes that have been piling up.
“And we’ll be fine, it’s just young guys, inexperienced guys. But you’ve got to keep throwing the ball to them,” said quarterback coach Mike O’Cain. “If you stop, they never will be good. So you’ve just got to hug them around the neck and build their confidence.”
Injuries have been another issue plaguing the receivers this spring. Davis and Coles have both missed time with injuries, and Roberts has been battling a tweaked hamstring himself. This has given guys like Corey Fuller, Demitri Knowles, E.L. Smiling and Kevin Asante valuable reps with the first-team.
Although a senior, Fuller hasn’t spent a bunch of time playing receiver, as last year was his first with the program after transferring from Kansas, where he ran track. However, he has shown improvement this spring, as he caught three touchdowns from Thomas in the team’s scrimmage last Saturday.
As far as this upcoming season, it looks to be Davis, Roberts and Coles as the starting three receivers. These players have had the most in-game experience and they give the Hokies the best chance to have an explosive offense. But, Fuller has been working hard this off-season in order to be given the opportunity to go out and make plays for this offense.
“I come out here in practice every day, Monday, Wednesday, Friday,” Fuller said. “I do everything and attempt to catch every single ball.”
Fuller is going to be a wild card for this fall’s Hokie offense. He will be in the fourth wide receiver position, giving him the opportunity for mismatches. It’s going to be up to him to make the best of his chances.
“He’s getting better. I look at him from this time last year to where he is this year, and it’s light-years,” O’Cain said. “He’s playing much faster, and overall, he’s catching the ball better.”
If the Hokies can stay healthy at the wide receiver position, then it could be a special season. With experience and the overall ability of many of these players, the Hokies could potentially have a better season throwing the ball.
It will be key through the rest of the spring to get the drops and little timing issues out of the way so when it comes time to make plays in game situations, these can get it done.