BLACKSBURG — After the departures of Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale from Virginia Tech’s wide receiver corps at the conclusion of last season, Tech lost more than just the two most accomplished pass-catchers in school history. Both were absolute pests in terms of blocking downfield and on the perimeter of the field.
Just how much has Tech (4-6 overall, 2-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) missed in the blocking department with Boykin and Coale no longer on the roster? The gory details were revealed in a two-minute video that went viral Monday.
Marcus Davis, who leads Tech heading into Saturday’s game at Boston College (2-8, 1-5) with 38 catches for 754 yards and four touchdowns, was the subject of the none-too-flattering video, which was created by the techsideline.com website. It ended up being linked to the popular Deadspin website, along with several other prominent national college football blogger sites.
Nine plays — two pass plays and seven running plays — from Tech’s 28-22 loss last Thursday to Florida State were shown on the video. On each play, Davis is shown either failing to block an FSU defender or whiffing on blocks altogether.
On Monday evening, Davis defended his play in the FSU game when asked by reporters about the video. He admitted he was confused regarding his responsibilities on a few plays, but he added that observers of the video didn’t understand his role.
Tech coach Frank Beamer’s reaction to the video Tuesday?
“I think each and every week you evaluate people on their performance, the consistency of their performance, and I can tell you that’s how it’s always been in our program,” said Beamer, whose team must snap a seven-game losing streak away from Lane Stadium in the game at BC and win Nov. 24 against Virginia just to get bowl-eligible for a 20th consecutive season. “The people that give us the consistency in their performance, that’s who’s going to be on the field.”
Not exactly a ringing endorsement for Davis, but it wasn’t a direct condemnation of his play either. Tech’s depth chart heading into the BC game provides more insight regarding the coaching staff’s assessment of the receivers.
As of Tuesday evening, Corey Fuller and Davis were listed as co-starters at one receiver spot heading into the BC game, while Demitri Knowles and Smithfield High graduate Dyrell Roberts were listed as co-starters at the other spot.
Davis and Roberts have started every game this season, and Fuller has started five times when Tech has opened in three-receiver sets. Knowles may be in line for his first collegiate start against BC.
“I don’t really pay attention to the receivers’ jobs as blockers,” Tech quarterback Logan Thomas said. “I just pay attention to my job being able to throw the ball and hand it off.”
While trouble blocking at the receiver positions has been a recurring problem for Tech this season, big-play production hasn’t been the issue.
With Davis and Fuller, who has 36 catches for 671 yards and five touchdowns, Tech is the only ACC team with two receivers who each have at least 12 catches for 20 or more yards. Fuller has 13 such catches, Davis 12. No receiver in the conference has more than Davis’ seven catches that have gone for at least 40 yards.
Despite the impressive numbers Boykin and Coale put up in 14 games last season (a combined 121 catches for 1,665 yards and eight touchdowns), Davis and Fuller aren’t far behind where Boykin and Coale were in terms of catches through 10 games last season. Coale had 44 catches in the first 10 games, while Boykin had 40.
Davis (19.8 yards per catch) and Fuller (18.6 yards per catch) have produced more per reception than Boykin (12.5 yards per catch) and Coale (15.1 yards per catch) did last season.
The problems blocking at the receiver spots partially explains Tech’s ongoing problems in establishing the running game. Tech is fifth in the ACC and 69th in the nation in rushing offense, averaging 156.5 yards per game.
“There’s no question if you can get (the running game) started, your wide-receiver blocking is critical for the long play,” Beamer said. “If you’ve got a 5-yard gain, it can turn into a 25-yard gain. There’s no question about the importance of your wide receivers blocking.”