Coming into this season, the Hokies knew what they had in Isaiah Ford and Cam Phillips. As true freshmen last season, they combined for 96 catches and scored nine touchdowns. Depth behind them was a bigger question.
Demitri Knowles, a r-senior, caught three passes a year ago. Kevin Asante, another r-senior, didn’t catch any. Deon Newsome, a r-sophomore, had seven receptions, but they were all on flare routes and screens because the staff didn’t trust him to read defenses.
After not playing a down on offense against Ohio State, the backup wide receivers also sat on the bench for the first three quarters against Furman. They finally got into the game for the final 15 minutes, but only after the score was 35-3. Asante caught one pass for 13 yards, while Knowles had one reception for seven yards. As it stands through two games, those are the only catches Tech’s backup receivers have made.
According to starting wide receiver Isaiah Ford, those guys will see more playing time once they get the details down.
“We’re still looking [for a third receiver],” Ford said. “We have a lot of talent. It’s just paying attention to the details and the little things. We saw that last year. Four or five of those games we lost because of details.”
Ford is correct about wide receiver in a pro-style offense being a very detail-oriented position. You have to be a precise route runner, and you have to be able to read defenses quickly, both before and after the snap. There’s a lot of information to process. As r-seniors, it’s easy wonder whether or not Knowles or Asante will ever pick it up completely. However, Ford backed up his teammates in front of the media.
“No sir, I’m not concerned,” he said. “I’m confident that they’ll step it up.”
Frank Beamer was also later asked about the backup receivers. Rather than going into detail about them, he diverted the conversation to his two starters, as well as Tech’s deep group of tight ends.
“I think it’s a work in progress right now,” Beamer said. “I think those first two are really good. I think Hodges and Malleck and Cline, they give you a special deal. They are athletic enough to play out wide and block inside.”
Beamer’s comments – or rather his lack of comments – about the backup receivers show that the position is still an area of concern. In fact, r-freshman walkon CJ Carroll (all 5-7, 161 of him) is now listed as the #2 flanker behind Isaiah Ford…ahead of Demitri Knowles. Carroll also played in the fourth quarter against Furman, though he did not catch a pass.
There are still many question marks surrounding this football team, and it’s still too early to draw any definite conclusions about most of those question marks. Wide receiver depth will be something to monitor as the season progresses.