Less than a week into the 2013 season it became perfectly clear that whatever kind of production Virginia Tech expected to get from D.J. Coles wasn’t going to happen.
In the Hokies first game of the year, Coles, a redshirt senior receiver, carried the ball twice for one yard and caught one pass despite being targeted six times by quarterback Logan Thomas. Beyond the stats, a lazily run slant route early in the second half led to an interception and the beginning of Alabama's rout.
“I thought he looked like a guy that hadn’t played football in a year,” said wide receivers coach Aaron Moorhead following the season opening loss. “He’s got to continue to practice hard, he’s got to continue to go out in a game now and prove he’s going to catch a football. And when the ball is in the air, he’s got to make plays (on the ball) and he knows that. To be honest, if he (doesn't) we’ll find someone that will. And he knows that.”
Coles hadn’t played in a while. The Goochland native played just 13 snaps in 2012 before aggravating an old knee injury against Georgia Tech that cost him the 2012 season. Coles returned to the team this year as the sole veteran of the receiving corps.
After reviewing the Alabama game film, the coaches decided he couldn’t maintain a high enough level of play as frequently as they would have hoped.
“He’s going to be in certain packages. We’re going to keep him fresh. I still think when he’s not playing a lot, he’s probably in a better position,” said head coach Frank Beamer after Coles caught one pass, a 19-yard touchdown, against Western Carolina. “The weight (gain) will get him a little bit, and the knee will get him a little bit, but he can bring something to this offense. I think we just (have) to play him less plays and get more out of him per play. That’s to me what we’ve got to do.”
The receiver, listed at 234 pounds on the team’s website, admittedly playing a few pounds overweight, saw the field infrequently — about five plays — against Western Carolina. Coles, true to his veteran status, continued to be professional about the reduction in playing time.
“I just go out there. Whenever they call my number I’m ready to play. They pick and choose how many snaps I get. I’m just ready to make plays,” Coles, who played over 400 snaps in 2011, said. “As long as we’re coming out with ‘W's’ that’s fine with me. Winning is the ultimate goal as a team.”