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Thursday, April 2, 2009
Hokies' receivers working to give offense a boost

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer wasn't thrilled with the idea of his players talking on the first day of spring practice about their potential to play in the national championship game, but receiver Jarrett Boykin said there's "a little whisper" about it going around in the locker room.

"We know the expectations are higher for us, and we're going to pursue that next year, but that's something we don't want to talk about right now," Boykin said after Wednesday's practice. "[Beamer] just wants us to take it day by day, don't get too far ahead of ourselves."

There's a reason for that.

Despite the lofty expectations from outsiders, Virginia Tech has a lot of work to do.

If the Hokies, who beat Cincinnati in the Orange Bowl last season, are going to take the next step nationally, they have to take a giant step forward offensively. Virginia Tech finished 103rd in the nation last year in total offense and 111th in passing offense -- next to last in the ACC in both categories. The Hokies also finished 99th in the country in passing efficiency, and it probably didn't help that the offensive line allowed three sacks per game -- the worst in the ACC.

And yet they still won 10 games and another ACC title.

It's hard not to wonder what this young team could be capable of in 2009 if it added a potent offense to its traditionally cocksure, smashmouth defense. That's something Boykin said the receivers are trying to help out with, and they made some progress over the final few weeks of last season.

"It's very important," said Boykin, who started eight games last year and was a listed as a starter on the pre-spring depth chart. " ... Everybody wants the same thing, we're hungry. There's a little locker room talk, everybody wants it, but right now we're just thinking about practice, focusing on Friday, and trying to get better."

Last year, only three receivers made significant catches for the Hokies, and two were true freshmen -- Boykin and Dyrell Roberts -- and Danny Coale was a redshirt freshman. They combined for 11 catches and a touchdown against Virginia, and seven catches in the Orange Bowl, compared to three in the season opener. It wasn't until Nov. 22 against Duke, though, that a receiver caught a touchdown pass for the Hokies. Boykin was the only true receiver to catch a touchdown pass all year, and he finished with two.

Boykin said the Hokies are capable of doing "a lot more" in the playbook this year and they're going to start "adding on stuff."

Boykin said the game has slowed down for him a bit, and as a group, the receivers put a lot of work into the weight room where they set a few records for their position, and spent extra time working on their routes and getting in and out of breaks. Boykin said he broke the power clean record at 331, Patrick Terry broke the vertical jump record at 40 ½, and Coale broke a squat record.

"We're just trying to work hard, and help contribute to this team as much as we can," Boykin said. "I feel like we've grown a lot since last year. We took advantage of the offseason in the weight room, coming out on our own, throwing the ball and getting the timing down."

All good places to start.