As Virginia Tech prepares for its season opener with Ohio State, we examine the wide receivers and tight ends that will shine under the lights of Lane Stadium on Monday as part three of our Virginia Tech football season preview series. Part one of the series focused on Michael Brewer and the other Hokie quarterbacks, while part two took a closer look at the running backs. The wide receivers and tight ends edition wraps up our preview coverage for the Virginia Tech offensive skill-position players.
What We Know
There are multiple talented receivers that will be catching passes from Brewer this season in Blacksburg. The group is headlined by sophomore Isaiah Ford, who was an honorable mention All-ACC selection last year as a freshman. He led the team in receptions (56) and yards (709), and he also scored 6 touchdowns. Ford’s playmaking ability is unmatched as he can turn any pass into a highlight play. He is notably remembered last season for completing a 30-yard pass to Brewer in Virginia Tech’s Military Bowl victory over Cincinnati.
Fellow sophomore Cam Phillips is also returning from an impressive freshman debut. He finished 2014 with 40 receptions for 498 yards and 3 touchdowns.
At tight end, Bucky Hodges provides size, strength and athletic ability. He played quarterback in high school, and he even spent a portion of his redshirt year as a quarterback for the Hokie scout team. His transition to tight end last season proved to be more than worthwhile as he hauled in 45 receptions for 526 yards and 6 touchdowns. Hodges set the record for receptions by a Virginia Tech freshman tight end during a single season. He also was recently selected to the 2015 preseason All-ACC team.
In addition to Hodges, the Hokies also feature redshirt senior tight end Ryan Malleck, who is largely overshadowed by Hodges but who also possesses the ability to impact games. At 6-7 and 6-5, Hodges and Malleck are two enormous targets for Brewer. The pair will also be tasked with blocking for J.C. Coleman and company.
Areas of Concern
The concern level is low for the receivers and tight ends. Some may cite depth as an issue in the event that Ford or Phillips suffer an injury, but there are players such as Demitri Knowles, Deon Newsome and Jaylen Bradshaw that are all superbly talented in their own right. If given the opportunity, expect those players to step up this season. In particular, Knowles is a redshirt senior with experience for the Hokies. As a sophomore, he racked up 641 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns, but he is coming off a lackluster 2014 season.
Potential Breakout Player
Joel Caleb spent last season as a running back for the Hokies because of injuries to Marshawn Williams, Shai McKenzie and Trey Edmunds, but Caleb transferred to the wide receiver position during spring practice. He spent his redshirt year at Virginia Tech practicing as a receiver so he is already familiar with the routes. Caleb has the potential to be a breakout player in 2015 because of the speed and athletic ability that he displayed at running back last season.
WR Isaiah Ford (6-2/187) So.
WR Cam Phillips (6-1/191) So.
WR Demitri Knowles (6-1/180) r-Sr.
TE Bucky Hodges (6-7/242) r-So.
Key reserves: WR Joel Caleb, r-Jr. (6-2, 187); WR Deon Newsome, r-So. (5-11/187); WR Jaylen Bradshaw, r-Fr. (6-1/188); TE Ryan Malleck, r-Sr. (6-5/252)
True freshmen: WR Sean Daniel (5-10/174), TE Xavier Burke (6-2/264), TE Chris Cunningham (6-2/236)
The Hokie receivers and tight ends are another year older and more experienced this season, which should translated to increased offensive productivity. Isaiah Ford, Cam Phillips and Bucky Hodges will be entering their second year as starters for Virginia Tech, and the group will quickly be tested when the Hokies square off against defending national champion Ohio State on Monday, September 7. The game will kick off at 8:00 p.m.