The First Bank And Trust Company Friday Q&A: WR Separation, The Addition Of Tuten And More

Fontel Mines, Virginia Tech
Fontel Mines has more to work with in 2023, but he and his receivers will need help from the offensive scheme. (Ivan Morozov)

1) I have been a long-time subscriber and so frustrated by the lack of separation the Virginia Tech wide receivers have shown in both the last few years of the Fuente years and this past year. I am befuddled on whether it is our lack of talent, or route schemes from the OC. I watch other teams and their wide receiver production and constantly conflicted about what our problem is. $1000 question, but what say you? – Vthokieman84

Chris Coleman: I like this question, and I look forward to getting my $1,000 check in the mail for answering it.

As per usual, I don’t think there’s one singular issue. I do think Tech has had some depth problems at wide receiver recently, and Kaleb Smith was the only true outside receiver on this past year’s team, which meant that they had to play Da’Wain Lofton and occasionally Jadan Blue out of position on the outside. Playing guys out of position obviously won’t help them.

I will say that I believe that people tie in 40 times and “speed” too much with the ability to get separation. Check out these NFL Draft Combine numbers for some past Virginia Tech receivers…

1: Ernest Wilford – 4.81
2: Isiah Ford – 4.61
3: Jarrett Boykin – 4.62

Pretty good players, right? Not one of them was a burner, particularly Wilford. Demitri Knowles would have smoked them all in a foot race. I bet a few of you are saying right now, “Oh, Demetri Knowles, I had forgotten about him.” Yeah.

Cody Grimm back in the day convinced me of the folly of 40 times. Grimm didn’t have a very good 40 time, but I remember his 10-yard time being the third-best on the Virginia Tech team back in the day. He dominated opponents at the initial burst to the point where 40 times didn’t matter, because nobody was running 40 yards. Yeah, linebacker is different than wide receiver, but the same thing applies.

I’m not saying speed isn’t important. It is. See Andre Davis. Ideally you want speed and technique. However, there are very few humans alive who are blessed with both, and ultimately I see more guys with mediocre speed and great technique make it big (Antonio Freeman is another example) than I do guys with great speed and mediocre technique.

I’d be a bad coach, not because I don’t know what to do, but because I’m poor at explaining exactly how to do something. But here goes. Separation can be about winning the battle of the hips. Once in a JV football game, I got an interception on a jump ball next to the pylon against former Virginia Tech power forward Allen Calloway. Or it might have been his twin brother, I don’t remember. But the point stands…they were both about 6-6 and could jump through the room. There’s no way I should have won that battle, but I did, because I used my hips to create separation. I pushed him to the inside using my hips (and without using my hands, so no offensive PI), and I kept myself against him as long as possible. Then, at the exact right moment, I detached myself and moved towards the pylon and got the interception.

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