2022 Virginia Tech Wide Receivers Preview

With Grant Wells at quarterback, Kaleb Smith is set up for success at receiver for Virginia Tech in 2022. (Ivan Morozov)

Over the past few seasons, Virginia Tech had consistent play from at least two wide receivers.

2021: Tayvion Robinson – 44 rec., 559 yds, 5 TD; Tre Turner – 40 rec., 675 yds, 3 TD
2020: Tayvion Robinson – 38 rec., 592 yds, 3 TD; Tre Turner – 34 rec., 529 yds, 3 TD
2019: Tre Turner – 34 rec., 553 yds, 4 TD; Damon Hazelton – 31 rec., 527 yds, 8 TD
2018: Damon Hazelton – 51 rec., 802 yds, 8 TD; Eric Kumah – 42 rec., 559 yds, 7 TD

Turner (fifth, 134 catches) and Robinson (11th, 113) both rank in the top 11 in career receptions at Virginia Tech. Hazelton, who only spent two seasons in Blacksburg, is at No. 25. Turner is also fifth all-time in receiving yards, while Robinson is 14th. 

Why bring it up? First, to show you that even though the development of Tech’s wide receivers was subpar after position coach Holmon Wiggins left for Alabama in early 2019, guys like Turner and Robinson still put up solid career numbers in Blacksburg. Second, those two both had an extra year of eligibility because of COVID, but chose to go move on (Turner entered the NFL Draft, Robinson transferred to Kentucky).

As a result, what do the Hokies have at that position under new wide receivers coach Fontel Mines this year?

Returning Playmakers

To be exact, 216 receptions, 2,266 yards and 15 touchdowns across five players:

Jadan Bluer-Sr.1691,6729.910
Kaleb Smithr-Jr.3746912.74
Da'Wain LoftonSo.79814.01
Stephen GosnellSo.2115.50
Jaylen JonesSo.11515.00

Blue, a transfer from Temple, has 78.2% of the ten-man room’s career receptions, 73.8% of the group’s yards and 66.7% of the touchdowns. Add in Smith, a former walk-on-turned-captain, and those percentages bump up to 95.4%, 94.5% and 93.3%.

Let’s take a look at the wide receiver room as a whole, but first, a list of the ten scholarship players, sorted by class:

Cole Beck (6-1, 195, Gr.*)
Jadan Blue (6-0, 192, r-Sr.*)
Kaleb Smith (6-2, 222, r-Sr.*)
Stephen Gosnell (6-2, 198, Jr.*)
Dallan Wright (6-1, 176, r-So.*)
Jaylen Jones (6-1, 198, So.)
Da’Wain Lofton (5-11, 193, So.)
Christian Moss (6-3, 194, r-Fr.)
Tucker Holloway (6-2, 182, Fr.)
Xayvion Turner-Bradshaw (6-0, 155, Fr.)

*Blue is using his COVID year, while Beck, Smith, Gosnell and Wright all have a COVID year to use in the future. Also, as announced on Aug. 17, Wright suffered a season-ending injury.

Jadan Blue, defended by Alan Tisdale in Tech’s spring game, is expected to be a weapon this year. (Jon Fleming)

Blue and Smith

As Chris Coleman highlighted in March, Jadan Blue is a guy who will often find himself in the slot for the Hokies. That matches up well with Kaleb Smith, who is an outside receiver.

Blue decided to leave Temple due to inconsistency at quarterback, which shouldn’t be a problem for Tech. He’s a former Second Team All-AAC performer in 2019 who eclipsed 1,000 yards, the first season of its kind in Owls history.

The system at Virginia Tech is a bit different from his previous stop, and he described it as a “very NFL-type offense,” one where it’s more reliant on running a route vs. beating a cornerback.

“[At Temple] it was like, work the defender and just kind of get open,” Blue told Tech Sideline at Tech’s media day. “Here, T-Bow [offensive coordinator Tyler Bowen] draws it up crazy. He’s a mastermind with this sort of spacing, and a lot of things are a little bit different depending on how we’re going to play.”

Like Smith, Blue brings leadership, experience and confidence, and Fontel Mines said he asks more questions than anybody in team meetings.

“I love that,” Mines said, “because if you have a veteran like that, with the history that he had at Temple, feel comfortable asking those questions, then your freshmen and your sophomores are going to feel comfortable.”

Meanwhile, Smith was unsure about sticking around after the coaching change, but he didn’t want to leave Blacksburg. He characterized himself as a butterfly that had been kept in a drawer for three years under the previous regime. Smith never had a chance to prove himself, and his previous position coach suggested he transfer to a lower level.

When Brent Pry and Mines got to Tech, they immediately realized the potential that Smith possessed. Pry’s since referred to him as one of the most determined guys on Tech’s roster who is a worker and is a threat with the ground he covers. 

“He caught my attention early,” Pry said. “Big, long guy that was outworking everybody in winter workouts. That showed me something right out of the gate.”

With the arm talent and accuracy of Grant Wells combined with the skills and experience of Blue and Smith, it’s very possible that the duo could have similar seasons to past partnerships like Turner and Robinson. But to compete at a high level, Tech is going to need more depth behind them at wide receiver.

Da’Wain Lofton has a chance to prove himself this year. (Jon Fleming)

The Unproven Threats

Da’Wain Lofton has been hyped up and praised by so many members of the Virginia Tech program, and the sophomore should get his chance in 2022.

Justin Fuente once called him a stud. Back in March, Mines called Lofton “the most confident kid in the room.”

He’s likely Tech’s go-to option at the WR3 spot, and for good reason. He shined in the 164 snaps he played as a true freshman, including this 35-yard reception from Braxton Burmeister against Virginia.

“I feel like I’m more mature, know the playbook very well, multiple positions,” Lofton told Tech Sideline. “And I feel more comfortable playing at a faster pace out there.”

Behind him, some question marks linger. North Carolina transfer Stephen Gosnell should have an impact, and Pry told the media on Wednesday that he’s “had a real nice camp.” Christian Moss, who is a Hazelton-like player at 6-3, has received a ton of praise, too.

“I think he has all of the ability in the world,” Mines said of Moss. “I think he’s [an] ACC-level talent. He’s got size, he’s got speed, he’s got really good ball skills. The biggest hurdle for him is just going to be confidence and getting game experience.”

Jaylen Jones and true freshman Tucker Holloway are two other receivers that could have an impact, and the Hokies have Cole Beck as a weapon now, too. A Blacksburg native and a phenomenal track & field athlete (he was the ACC Championships Men’s Track MVP in both indoor and outdoor in 2022), Beck joined the team over the summer and is on scholarship, and he’ll be a guy that Virginia Tech tries to find in space.

“I think he came in with the right attitude to learn and sit back and ask plenty of questions,” Mines said, “and I’ve been very pleased with him. … We’ve still got some work to do, obviously, and that’s all of us, myself included. But he brings a dynamic to that room that I can’t coach.”

Mines and his unit have made many strides since the spring, and it’s obvious. Pry and offensive coordinator Tyler Bowen both said so earlier in fall camp. But even though there’s plenty of young talent, the wide receiver room, much like the offensive line at Virginia Tech, lacks game experience behind Smith and Blue. Someone will have to step up when Mines & Co. are tested this fall.

7 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. I believe that is a typo. Stephen Gosnell is listed at 198 lbs. His younger brother Benji who is a TE is listed at 6’5″ 243 lbs. No way Stephen Gosnell is 298 Haha

  2. This article is about wide receivers.The front end of their success is Grant Wells. I stumbled on a YouTube video of Grant at Marshall that really got me excited. If you haven’t seen it, do a search.

  3. Walk-on Luke Bussel also had a couple of catches last year. According to the chart in the article, he is tied for 4th in the WR room in terms of catches.

  4. I feel sorry for any Defensive Back who has to tackle Gosnell. 6′ 2″ and 298 is going to crush those little guys.

Comments are closed.