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2021 Virginia Tech football season preview: Wide receivers and tight ends

There is plenty of talent — and experience — here.

NCAA Football: ACC Kickoff
James Mitchell
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Wide receivers

Tre Turner: 6-foot-2, 190 (Jr.)

Tayvion Robinson: 5-foot-10, 187 (So.)

Kaleb Smith: 6-foot-2, 215 (RS So.)

Jaden Payoute: 6-foot-1, 210 (RS Fr.)

Changa Hodge: 6-foot-1, 199 (Sr.)

Luke Bussel: 6-foot-1, 207 (RS Fr.)

Da’Wain Lofton: 5-foot-11, 190 (Fr.)

P.J. Prioleau: 5-foot-11, 165 (Fr.)

Tink Boyd: 5-foot-10, 187 (RS So.)

Keli Lawson: 6-foot-4, 200 (Fr.)

Miles Ellis: 5-foot-11, 175 (Fr.)

Logan Richardson: 6-foot-2, 190 (Fr.)

William Kakavitsas: 6-foot-1, 190 (RS Fr.)

Dallan Wright: 6-foot-1, 175 (Fr.)

DJ Sims: 6-foot-3, 195 (Fr.)

Christian Moss: 6-foot-3, 180 (Fr.)

Jaylen Jones: 6-foot-1, 203 (Fr.)

Tight ends

James Mitchell: 6-foot-3, 255 (Jr.)

Drake Deiuliis: 6-foot-5, 247 (RS Jr.)

Nick Gallo: 6-foot-4, 251 (So.)

Jared Gibble: 6-foot-4, 235 (Fr.)

Ty Eller: 6-foot-2, 236 (RS Jr.)

Cole Blaker: 6-foot-3, 236 (RS Jr.)

Cody Duncan: 6-foot-1, 231 (Fr.)

Dimitri Georgiadis: 6-foot-9, 245 (Jr.)

Top returnees: Turner, Mitchell, Robinson, Gallo, Smith, Payoute

Top newcomers: Lawson, Lofton, Moss, Jones, Sims, Wright

Key departures: None

The starters

It’s notable the Hokies didn’t lose a wide receiver or tight end from last season’s roster that caught more than two passes. This is a talented and experienced group led by Turner, Robinson and Mitchell. These three are as good as you’ll find in the ACC.

All three players are NFL draft hopefuls, which could come as soon as 2022 for Mitchell and Turner.

Turner has played in 33 career games for the Hokies. He has 94 receptions for 1,617 yards and 11 touchdowns. After his freshman season, most thought Turner was headed for superstardom as soon as his sophomore season. Things haven’t went quite that way for Turner, but it’s not all his fault.

The Hokies haven’t had consistency in the passing game, whether it was because of the quarterbacks or the coaching. I tend to blame more of the issues on coaching for the lack of development at the quarterback position, which impacts the pass-catchers.

Mitchell has been a tremendous player in each of his three seasons on campus. Mitchell improves each season as coaches continue to give him more responsibility. The biggest problem with Mitchell, again, is the playcalling. When you have a mismatch nightmare like Mitchell is in the college game, you should do everything in your power to get the ball in his hands multiple times per game.

Robinson has been a tremendous slot receiver during his Virginia Tech career. He played some on the outside last season and could be there again in 2021 as the Hokies look to get Raheem Blackshear more opportunities in the passing game. A group of pass-catchers that feature Turner, Mitchell, Robinson and Blackshear is an exciting combination for Hokie fans.

The others

At tight end, the Hokies have three good veterans. Mitchell is the star. Deiuliis and Gallo will both see plenty of time in 2021. This is where the coaches need to be more creative. Look no further than some of the things the New England Patriots did when they had Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez on the roster.

Both Gallo and Deiuliis are big and athletic. Deiuliis has been around for a while but always behind other players like Mitchell and Dalton Keene. Quarterback Braxton Burmeister could be even more dangerous if Tech employs sets involving two tight ends.

Kaleb Smith is a reliable player who came on two years ago. He has solid size, good hands and runs precise routes. Payoute is the one to watch. He’s been hurt during his first two seasons, but there is no doubt the coaches believe the former four-star recruit has big-time potential.


This is why you don’t panic when players transfer, especially at wide receiver.

The Hokies didn’t sign an elite recruit at wide receiver or tight end, yet there is outstanding potential amongst this group.

The name who stands out is Lofton. He’s stood out since he arrived on campus in the spring. He will play in 2021, and perhaps a lot. Lofton is a dynamic talent.

Jones has stood out since arrival, too. Jones won’t wow you with speed or size, he is solid in both areas, but just like Lofton, he runs good routes, has great hands and knows how to create separation. He should also play in 2021.

Moss didn’t arrive as early as Lofton and Jones, but he has created quite the buzz this summer. It remains to be seen if he will play this season with veterans and Lofton and Jones ahead of him, but he played against excellent competition in high school and the college game doesn’t look too big for Moss.

Wright is another player who didn’t get a lot of buzz on the recruiting trail, but was a great find by the coaching staff. It remains to be seen if he plays this season.


This is a good group on paper. Much like the rest of the team, the Hokies can’t afford an injury. While the depth at receiver and tight end is better than at some of the other positions, there is a dropoff from the combination of Turner, Mitchell and Robinson to the next group.

The Hokies have some exciting young talent on the roster. The hope is they don’t have to rely on the young players too much this fall. Lofton should be the exception.

Expect Turner and Robinson to have strong seasons in 2021, but Mitchell will have a career year.