For the second year in a row, the only consistency in the Virginia Tech Hokies passing game is quarterback Logan Thomas. After working with all new starting receivers in 2012, Thomas again has to break in a new group this season.
Of the five receivers who have received the bulk of the Hokies playing time, only two — D.J. Coles and Demitri Knowles — caught more than one pass before this season. With Coles still struggling with a knee injury that kept him out for all of 2012, the Hokies have had to rely on inexperience.
Tech has two redshirt freshmen — Joshua Stanford and Charley Meyer — among their main receiving corps, though Meyer is currently sidelined with a hamstring injury.
With Meyer’s injury, redshirt junior Willie Byrn, who earned his scholarship this fall, has stepped up to take on a larger role in the offense.
With such an inexperienced group, the Hokies have had trouble early on establishing a good rapport between Thomas and his receivers. But Thomas can definitely see improvement from week-to-week.
“I’m gaining confidence when they gain confidence,” Thomas said. “It kind of gives me peace that if I have put it out there, then they’re going to do their best to make a play.”
However, there is still a long way to go to establish a legitimate passing threat — and receivers aren’t pretending otherwise.
“I still feel like we’ve got a lot more trust to build, but I feel like it’s starting to click,” Knowles said.
That inconsistency is evident in the stat line. In the season opener against Alabama, the Hokies had four players catch a pass. The next week against Western Carolina, 10 players caught a pass.
“It’s a new offense and this is game three,” Coles said. “We’re going to have a couple kinks in the beginning but we’re just working them out.”
With his injury moving him into a reduced role, Coles, a senior, has taken it upon himself to be a mentor to his younger teammates.
“I tell them ‘Just keep working. If you drop a ball, there’s going to be another play and opportunity to make another catch.’ We have to work on our craft each and every day,” Coles said.
One receiver who has been singled out for having that “just keep working” mentality is Byrn. He earned himself the nickname “The Paperboy” from offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler because of his consistent, hard work approach in practice and games. “He always delivers.”
“Last week, he did a great job of just doing what he was supposed to do,” said Thomas. “For the underneath stuff, he does a great job of knowing where he needs to be and that’s the type of person we’ve got to have in that situation.”
For head coach Frank Beamer, it is that consistency that the receivers need to establish going forward.
“My deal is if you can do it one time you can do it every time, so I don’t think anything is keeping us from doing it every time. I just think concentrate and let’s go play,” Beamer said.
Despite the struggles in the stat line, Thomas can feel things coming together for the passing game.
“We’re putting things together. We’re getting better every week and I can’t complain other than that,” Thomas said.
With only one more game before ACC play starts, the receivers will be looking to demonstrate the improvement they’ve made since week one.