Before we get to the wide outs some info from yesterday's practice session:
- Jason Peters sat out yesterday do to concussion-like symptoms from a blow in Saturday's practice. He should return today.
- Brandon Watts was knicked up but shouldn't miss any time.
- Saturday's scrimmage has been opened to the public & starts at 9:30. Give us a holler if you're going to be in attendance, we'd love to chat.
On to the wide receivers. No position is a bigger question mark for us in 2010 than wide receiver. Gone is BayBay Thomas, who flourished in the spread option offense with his speed, size, & ability to go up & get the ball. Who replaces Thomas' significant production (46 catches for 1,154 yards & 8 touchdowns?) will be a huge key in repeating as ACC champs. Right now we have some idea of the players but little idea of what they will bring to the table in 2010.
Stephen Hill will need t step up in 2010
Thrust into the spotlight this year as our "go-to" WR is true sophomore Stephen Hill. Hill has a wealth of physical tools but is still a work in progress. At a legit 6'4", Hill possesses a similar height advantage to what Thomas had last year. He's also a tremendous leaper, which helps. While not as fast as Thomas, Hill has plenty of speed to beat defenses deep as his long strides eat up turf. While not as big as BayBay, Hill may be more agile but to this point hasn't shown the glue-like hands that BayBay had. What we can't expect TO START THE SEASON is BayBay's moxy. Hill will need time to learn the little things that made Thomas so good: his ability to grab the ball at its apex, to shield defenders with his body, & his tremendous hands. Make no mistake, Hill has a ton of talent. He started on last year's ACC championship team as a true freshman. There will be some growing pains this year but Hill will eventually emerge as a legit #1 WR in our offense. Perhaps even more than the long balls for big gains we need Hill to be the player that keeps drives alive as Thomas did last year. It was an amazing safety valve that CPJ could always call a 10 yard "dig" to BayBay when we needed to pick up a critical third down last year. If Hill can contribute as Thomas did in this area it will go a long way in easing the loss of a great WR. Where we most likely will see a bigger drop off is in blocking. BayBay was the best blocking WR we may ever see on the Flats & it will be difficult to find anyone who blocks like that on the perimeter.
Any production we get from Tyler Melton will ease burden on Hill
While Hill is on most Tech fans radar, after his number we have a largely anonymous group at wide receiver. As of today, junior Tyler Melton is the starter opposite Hill. Melton is a reliable blocker but will need to show more in the receiving part of the game & prove himself a threat, even if it is as a "possession" receiver. Melton's hands are decent & he's willing to go across the middle but he lacks the speed to threaten defenses vertically. Our best hope appears to be that Melton proves a reliable safety valve for Joshua Nesbitt and is able to shake free & pick up key 3rd downs.
It's really up for grabs after Melton with five players in a battle for the 3rd receiver role: seniors Corey Earls and Kevin Cone, RS sophomore Quentin Sims, RS freshman Jeremy Moore, & RS sophomore Daniel Mckayhan. My early favorite to win the job is McKayhan. While far from polished, McKayhan has the speed to threaten a defense vertically & some "shake-n-bake" with the ball in his hands. He'll need to become a better blocker to see the field consistently but he brings the most to the field from a raw talent standpoint. Mckayhan may run back kick-offs assuming we redshirt BJ Bostic. Of the other four players, Cone is a willing & able blocker & will see some time due to that facet of his game.
On a long term note, I think BJ Bostic will end up at WR. He's got good hands & his slight build will make it tough for him blocking LB's all the time at A-back. He's a terror with the ball in his hands so the staff will find a way to get him the ball on reverses & the like. If he plays this year it will be on special teams & in specific situations designed to get him the ball in space. My hope is he redshirts.
So what's the prognosis at WR? Hill has the talent to be an elite player but will need time to develop. Remember, it wasn't until BayBay's junior year he flourished. I expect it will be a more team oriented passing game in 2010 rather than focused on one guy like it was last year. Hill will grab a few but expect the A-backs, particularly Embry Peeples & Roddy Jones, to play a bigger role in the passing game this year. Will one player put up numbers like Thomas had last year? Most certainly not. Can we be as effective & more efficient than last season throwing the ball. We'll need to be if we want a trip to Charlotte in early December. Much of that efficiency falls on Joshua Nesbitt but we'll need some open guys for him to throw to.....