It’s no secret that the Hokies lost some talent to the draft in Isaiah Ford and Bucky Hodges. However, Fuente has already brought in some great talent in his short time of recruiting.The question is: who is making a name for themselves this Spring, and who will see playing time ?
First of all, despite the Hokies’ loss of their top two receivers, they still have plenty of returning talent. Belk Bowl MVP Cam Phillips will be back, who has racked up 165 catches for 2063 yards and 10 TDs in his three years at Virginia Tech.
In addition, Tight End Chris Cunningham caught 4 TDs behind Hodges last year. With Bucky’s departure, Cunningham is poised for a breakout year in 2017.
However, this still leaves plenty of open slots at the receiver positions. Luckily, there are a plethora of young guns who have already began to show that they are ready to answer the call.
One receiver who is likely to see a lot of playing time is true sophomore Eric Kumah. Mike Barber of the Richmond Times has raved about Kumah’s development. In addition, receivers coach Holmon Wiggins said, “When his number’s been called and the ball’s in the air, he’s done a good job of fighting and scrapping and taking it out of the air, which we need a lot of.”
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Thinking back specifically to the game at Pitt last year, the Hokies receiving corps seemed to win almost every one-on-one battle. Isaiah Ford caught everything that was thrown at him, giving Pat Narduzzi fits on the sideline.
Fuente and his staff will certainly miss production like this from Ford and even Hodges. Hopefully Kumah can continue to bring some of that battle-winning mentality downfield.
Another player that saw playing time at special teams and receiver alongside Kumah last year was Divine Deablo.
This spring, Deablo made the move to free safety. This makes Phillip Patterson the next man up. At 6’2″, he has a similar frame to Kumah, according to Andy Bitter of the Roanoke Times. However, Patterson redshirted last year, so he has no on-field experience.
In the slot, CJ Carroll made some big plays for Tech last year, particularly at Notre Dame. Mike talked about this in the previous article. Carroll has been out of spring practice with an injury, meaning true freshman Khalil Pimpleton has gotten most of the slot work.
While the coaches have raved about the speed and elusiveness of both Carroll and Pimpleton, they are both somewhat undersized and could afford to put on some weight.
Lastly, Dalton Keane has impressed at the Tight End position. Offensive coordinator Brad Cornelson said, “Dalton Keene is another one of those early grad kids that has really excited us up until this point.” He went on to say that he hopes Keane can play a big role this season.
Evan G. Watkins of VTScoop reports that Keane is already fitting in well at Virginia Tech because his father was close friends with Hokies’ defensive line coach Charley Wiles. In addition, Watkins confirms that Keane will see playing time this season, via TE coach James Shibest.
As of right now, it looks like Phillips and Kumah will line up on the outside, with Carroll playing mostly in the slot. Patterson is right behind Kumah and should see playing time. Pimpleton could presumably either play or redshirt (it’s about 50/50 at this point).
At Tight End, Dalton Keane and Chris Cunningham seem to be the top two contenders. Nonetheless, the Spring Game should give us a deeper look into the development of the receiving corps.
Last but not least, only 139 days until regular season Hokie football!