WHY IS WILSON ATTEMPTING TO PLAY FOOTBALL?
At face value, Devin Wilson's decision to try out for the football team is a curious one. For one, Wilson is a rising senior and has never made an attempt to join the football team before (at least publicly), and two, Wilson is relatively slight of frame at 6'4" 190 pounds. But at a second glance, his decision makes perfect sense.
Little known to most, Wilson was a standout high school football (and basketball) player, and was only available to the Tech basketball team, in part, because he wrangled with the decision on whether to pursue playing basketball or football in college until late in the recruiting process. It wasn't until just over two weeks before signing day in 2013 that Wilson decided to opt for basketball, turning down football offers from at least Akron, N.C. State, Ohio and Temple in the process. Also, Wilson's playing time on the basketball team has dwindled, decreasing each of the last two seasons (from 1,081 minutes in 2013 to 990 in 2014, though he led the team in minutes both years, and to 687 in 2015), leaving him with an uncertain role on an ascending team that sports at least 6-7 other guards/wings in 2016-17. So with that in mind, not only is his decision understandable, but it makes total sense (though to be clear, Wilson has maintained that regardless of his success on the Tech football team, he plans to be in uniform for the Tech basketball team in 2016-17 as well).
WHAT COULD WILSON BRING TO THE TEAM?
As a prep player out of Montour High School in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, Devin played in 49 games, setting WPIAL records for career receptions (230), receiving yards (3,192) and career touchdowns (46, 41 of which were receiving TDs). He also added 73 rushes for 489 yards and 5 TDs, 21 kick returns for 306 yards and 35 punt returns for 445 yards. He also added 6 interceptions and recovered a fumble on defense, to say nothing of a number of bone-crunching hits. Wilson was rated as a 3-star recruit by 247Sports and ESPN, the No. 26 player in the state of Pennsylvania by 247 and the No. 33 player by ESPN. Rivals and Scout pegged Wilson as a 2-star recruit. You can find my analysis of his football tape (or what's left...and they say the internet is forever) and his basketball commitment here. You'll also see that I begged and pleaded Wilson to join the football team both in that piece and on Twitter, and before you ask, yes, I take total credit for this move. You're welcome.
What Wilson brings to the table is the ability to win jump balls, especially in the red zone with the ever popular in today's game back shoulder fade, and make circus catches, as he did in spring practice here.
Devin Wilson https://t.co/AqYZgH8JtE— HokiesFB (@HokiesFB) April 9, 2016
And for more jump ball-winning and circus catches, look no further than the aforementioned Devin Wilson high school tape:
The Hokies already have that attribute in Bucky Hodges and Isaiah Ford, but winning jump balls is a skill that a team can never have too much of, especially with the possibility of breaking in a rookie quarterback in Jerod Evans. But beyond that, it is unclear what Wilson could offer.
While my analysis of Wilson as a football player coming out of high school in 2013 was that he was "polished," sophomore WR C.J. Carroll opined the following:
"He’s been making plays. He’s raw, definitely, but he definitely has a future. You can see it. I don’t know if you saw that catch he had on Twitter that was surfacing everywhere, but that’s not the only play he’s made."
That's a bit of a mixed bag, and throws some water on my "polished" claim, but it's heartening to see that even guys that are in competition with him are willing to talk him up, and if accurate, is a perfect segue into our next segment.
WHAT ROLE COULD WILSON FILL?
One of the big storylines heading into fall camp is the lack of secondary targets behind the established WRs/TEs in Tech's current crop of Ford, Hodges and Cam Phillips. While the Hokies certainly have a lot more answers coming into camp than in comparison to the last three years, the need for those secondary targets to develop and at least be serviceable when called upon, especially when they're likely to be called upon more often in new coach Justin Fuente's spread offense, is stated. That means the Hokies are looking for receiving options Nos. 4 and 5 (or perhaps 5 and 6 depending on Travon McMillian's role in the passing game) and WRs No. 3 and 4 (or 4 and 5 depending on how they line Hodges up). Could Wilson plausibly not only win but produce in one of those spots? I'd say it's a distinct possibility. Especially when considering many of the Hokies' current options to claim those spots are not too long in the tooth.
Currently, the only options with any experience to speak of are redshirt-junior Deon Newsome, who was an intermittent contributor in the running, passing and kick return games in 2014, Carroll, who was in for all of eight offensive plays in 2015 and Jaylen Bradshaw, who is a redshirt-sophomore with no game experience. Basically, the position behind Ford and Phillips is bare bones (experience-wise), if we're keeping it real. That of course means that guys like Wilson, and 2016 recruits and early enrollees Divine Deablo, Samuel Denmark and Eric Kumah, may have an easier route to snagging one of those roles.
While it is clear there is some rust for Wilson to shake off from three years of not playing competitive football, but he might offer the most upside to the team in 2016. If nothing else, he has the experience of three years of logging major minutes in the ACC behind him, so from a competitive standpoint, he may have an advantage. For sure, all things equal, I would trust a soon-to-be 22-year old over an 18-year old any day.