BLACKSBURG – Of all the teaching tools at the disposal of Virginia Tech wide receivers coach Kevin Sherman, recent film of receivers Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale – the most prolific pass-catchers in school history – would seem to logically be material near Sherman's fingertips at all times.
Sherman isn't reluctant to point out to young receivers like true freshmen Joshua Stanford and Joel Caleb the occasional 'This is how Jarrett did it' or 'Let me show you what Danny used to do,' but Sherman is more likely to plop his players down in front of dusty old video from the dark ages of 2007. That's when dinosaurs like then-seniors Eddie Royal, Josh Morgan, Justin Harper and Josh Hyman roamed the receiver positions for Tech.
Why those guys instead of Boykin and Coale? With matchups in Monday night's season-opener like Tech will see from the 3-4 defensive scheme of Georgia Tech, which Sherman said will feature a lot of man coverage, winning physical confrontations will be critical.
"I'll pull out the old one-on-one film from that year just to show those guys what it's going take to win on an individual, one-on-one battle," Sherman said.
Virginia Tech's Dyrell Roberts, a Smithfield High graduate who now qualifies as one of the "old guys" considering he's a fifth-year senior, said there are certain things Royal, Morgan and Harper did that make them worthy of emulating.
"We go back to the '07 type look to really learn how to win, learn how to separate from the top of your route," Roberts said. "I think (Sherman) picks that tape because none of them was the same. Eddie was blazing fast. Josh (Morgan) was real physical. Justin was tall and slinky, but he could run routes.
"Those guys were really good. They didn't do too much wrong."
Quarterback Logan Thomas has taken it upon himself to get his receiving corps ready in the post-Boykin/Coale era. Georgia Tech will provide a strong test, as the Yellow Jackets return three starters from a secondary that helped the team finish second in the Atlantic Coast Conference and 28th in the nation in pass defense (197.6 yards per game).
"When they run a route, and I throw it to a spot that they're not at, I'll say, 'What did you all see here? How did you all see it?'" said Thomas, who only attempted 13 passes last season in a 37-26 win at Georgia Tech, but he completed seven of those passes for 209 yards and three touchdowns.
"I think that's the way I've gotten better throughout this spring and this fall is just being on the same page with them, seeing what they see and understanding what they're looking at."
While Roberts is looking to get back on track after having his last two seasons cut short due to injuries, seniors D.J. Coles and Marcus Davis are also trying to establish themselves as dependable targets.
Coles, who was third on the team behind Boykin and Coale last season with 36 catches, is just now getting back into playing shape after spending the first 2 1/2 weeks of the preseason getting back to full speed. He had knee surgery in January and was slow to recover.
"He's got to stay sharp mentally," said Sherman of Coles, who is tied with Roberts atop the depth chart at one receiver spot. "When he gets out there, and he's in a live situation, he's got to play full-speed."
Davis is the x-factor in Tech's receiving corps. There's vast potential in his 6-4, 232-pound frame, but it's still untapped. Finally slated to be a full-time starter after starting just 10 games in his first three seasons, Davis believes this is his breakout time.
"The only thing I think that's separated me is playing behind two great receivers [Boykin and Coale]," said Davis, who had career highs last season with 30 catches for 510 yards and five touchdowns.
While Sherman has had to do more teaching this preseason, he hasn't had a shortage of bodies to work with at the receiver spots. In addition to Davis, Roberts and Coles, redshirt freshmen Demitri Knowles and Kevin Asante figure to get plenty of reps.
Senior Corey Fuller could also factor into the equation. Stanford could still wind up redshirting, and Caleb is likely to redshirt as he transitions from quarterback (where he played in high school) to receiver.
"I think the deal for our older guys was to get healthy and stay healthy, but I wanted them to understand that even though I was teaching the freshmen, they have something to get better at as well," Sherman said.