Virginia Tech head coach Brent Pry knew there was a talent deficit at wide receiver last season. There wasn’t a lot that Pry could do ahead of his first season but stick with the players he inherited and add some veterans via the NCAA transfer portal.
VT’s offense was dreadful in 2022. It wasn’t just because Tech lacked playmakers at wide receivers, but also at quarterback and running back. The offensive line was also a work in progress under a new coaching staff.
Heading into 2023, there was some shuffling on the coaching staff as Joe Rudolph [former offensive line coach] left for Notre Dame. Quarterbacks coach Brad Glenn departed for Cincinnati, and offensive coordinator Tyler Bowen took over as QB coach, allowing former running backs coach Stu Holt to take over as tight ends coach/special teams coach. Elijah Brooks replaced Holt as the running backs coach.
One thing that remains the same is wide receivers coach Fontel Mines. Mines has already proven to be a terrific recruiter and he has more talent to work with in the WRs room in 2023.
- 0 Ali Jennings, 6-2, 198, Sr.
- 2 Takye Heath, 5-10, 163, Fr.
- 3 Da’Wain Lofton, 5-11, 190, Jr.
- 4 Chance Fitzgerald, 6-2, 191, Fr.
- 5 Xayvion Turner-Bradshaw, 6-0, 165, R-Fr.
- 9 Da’Quan Felton, 6-5, 207. R-Sr.
- 11 Tucker Holloway, 6-2, 180, So.
- 12 Stephen Gosnell, 6-2, 194, Sr.
- 13 Marcell Baylor, 6-0, 186, Fr.
- 26 Ayden Greene, 6-2, 170, Fr.
- 31 Luke Shields, 6-0, 166, R-Fr.
- 81 Jordan Tapscott, 6-0, 182, Fr.
- 83 Jaylin Lane, 5-10, 180, Sr.
- 89 Latrell Sutton, 6-3, 200, R-Fr.
- 8 Dae’Quan Wright, 6-4, 234, So.
- 40 Cole Pickett, 6-3, 231, R-So.
- 82 Benji Gosnell, 6-5, 237, R-Fr.
- 85 Ja’Ricous Hairston, 6-2, 240, Fr.
- 86 Nick Gallo, 6-4, 240, Sr.
- 87 Harrison Saint Germain, 6-4, 240, R-Fr.
- 88 Zeke Wimbush, 6-2, 232, Fr.
- 99 Cole Reemsnyder, 6-6, 226, R-Fr.
Ali Jennings, Quan Felton and Jaylin Lane are new transfer wide receivers for 2023. Ayden Greene, Takye Heath and Chance Fitzgerald are the freshmen. Jennings was a prized pickup in the transfer portal, while Felton’s combination of size and athleticism has everyone intrigued. Felton has an NFL body with NFL measurables. He is a player to watch.
For as much publicity as Jennings has received — and rightfully so — the transfer to watch is Lane. He could be Virginia Tech’s top wideout in 2023. He can play in the slot and provide a safe and reliable outlook for QB Grant Wells. He can do damage after the catch, too.
Wimbush is a freshman to watch. He can play despite his lack of recruiting attention.
Greene is the freshman who could push for playing time in 2023.
Wide receiver: Jennings, Gosnell, Lane
Tight end: Wright/Gosnell
Gallo’s injury threw a wrench in VT’s offensive plans at tight end. Wright and Benji Gosnell both have big-time potential. Wright can be a matchup nightmare and the Hokies should ensure he receives at least 4-5 touches per game.
Stephen Gosnell has had an impressive offseason and has a strong rapport with Wells.
Who else could play?
Holloway showed late last season he could be an elite punt returner. He needs to play on offense, too. A pair of potential slot players, Xayvion Turner-Bradshaw [Bluefield, Va.] and Takye Heath [Highland Springs, Va.], are exciting prospects. Both can be electric with the football in their hands and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Hokies get each player some touches in 2023, even with Lane in front of them.
Felton may not start, at least initially, but you can bet Bowen will find ways to get him involved.
Lofton is back for his third season. He had some issues with drops last season but the Hokies still love his potential.
If everything goes right.....
The Hokies could have an excellent group of offensive weapons. Of course, everything starts with pass protection and quarterback play. If each of those things are improved, it will benefit the pass catchers. Jennings is a reliable and experienced player who could lead the Hokies in targets. Felton could be a big-play guy, while Gosnell could be Wells’ safety valve on third downs.
There is excitement about the slot position. Lane, Turner-Bradshaw and Heath are all dynamic talents with the football in their hands. Lane is a potential All-ACC player this season. Bowen needs to create opportunities for YAC [yards after catch] for his slot receivers this fall.
With Gallo’s injury, the Hokies need some good injury luck and progression at tight end. Wright and Gosnell have high ceilings, while Harrison Saint Germain fits the profile of Gallo, where he can provide help as a blocker and also catch the football.
I love the potential of this group. As stated earlier, so much of Virginia Tech’s offensive success begins up front and at quarterback. The Hokies unquestionably have more talent at wide receiver in 2023. Still, Tech needs Grant Wells to take a step forward. Wells has the arm strength to beat teams deep and the Hokies have multiple wide receivers capable of stretching the field.
What Bowen needs to feature in his offense is putting the ball in the hands of his playmakers in the short passing game and allowing them to make plays after the catch. Of the newcomers, Lane is the wide receiver I’m most excited about. If he can remain healthy, he could have a big year.
At tight end, Gosnell and Wright each have a high ceiling. Of course, that means nothing until they prove it on the field. Wright showed flashes of brilliance as a true freshman last season but the Hokies didn’t feature him enough. That should change this fall. Gosnell is coming back from a second knee surgery, but has opened eyes this summer. Gallo’s injury opens the door for multiple young players to step up in 2023.
Ultimately, this group is in a much better spot in 2023 due to VT’s work in the transfer portal.