ACC: Josh Stanford

The Roanoke Times is counting down to ACC Kickoff by digging deeper into some of Virginia Tech's impact players, and today's installment features a look at receiver Josh Stanford.

Here's the basics:
"It didn't seem like Stanford was anything too special for the first half of last year. He was inconsistent, had bouts of drops (like all the receivers), making an occasional solid grab but never really taking command of a game. Then the Boston College game went to the second half. From there to the rest of the season, Stanford shined."

I don't know that “shined” is really the right word. Stanford had an incredible second half against BC, though Virginia Tech still lost that game. He had a big day the next week -- 7 catches, 107 yards and a TD — against a reeling Miami team in a win that salvaged some of Tech's season. After that though?

Against Maryland: 2 catches, 29 yards
Against UVA: 1 catch, 15 yards
Against UCLA: 3 catches, 34 yards

Indeed, his final three games accounted for the lowest amount of production during a three-game stretch Stanford had all year.

The BC and Miami games confirmed Stanford's potential, but they didn't exactly mark a turning of the tide. This is the problem for the Hokies' offense (and really, it has been for two years): There is talent in the receiving corps, but consistency has been non-existent.

Here's a look at the top returning receivers in the conference this year, based on 2013 yards:

1. Jamison Crowder (Duke), 1,360
2. Tyler Boyd (Pitt), 1,174
3. Rashad Greene (FSU), 1,128
4. DeVante Parker (Lou), 885
5. Quinshad Davis (UNC), 730
6. Willie Byrn (VT), 660
7. Demitri Knowles (VT), 641
8. Stanford (VT), 640

Of the top eight returning receivers, three play at Virginia Tech. That should be a real sign of encouragement for a passing game dealing with transition at the QB spot, but it's also worth pointing out that Byrn, Knowles and Stanford caught just 56 percent of their total targets last year. Overall, Virginia Tech finished ninth in the ACC in passing last year and 10th in completion percentage, despite what seems like a deep receiving corps.

Some of that can probably be blamed on the erratic aim of Logan Thomas, but the history of drops and bad routes among the Hokies' receivers is already well documented.

Byrn had his moments, including 100-yard games against UNC and Miami. He was also shut out against Alabama, had just 15 yards against Marshall and 26 in a loss to Duke.

Knowles had 99 yards against ECU and 101 against UVA. He was also limited to just two catches in six different games.

And yes, Stanford showed his potential against BC and Miami. He's only a redshirt sophomore, so the inconsistency the rest of the season was to be expected. But Virginia Tech is already well aware of potential. What the Hokies need from receivers now are consistently strong results.

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Weak and strong: Virginia Tech

June, 18, 2013
We move on in our series looking at the weakest and strongest position on each team in the ACC with Virginia Tech.

Strongest position: Defensive line

Virginia Tech should feature one of the best -- if not the best -- defense in the ACC this season, and its defensive line is a big reason why. There is big-time talent here, so much so that Phil Steele has ranked this group No. 7 in the nation (and tops in the ACC). The headliner, of course, is defensive end James Gayle, who had a huge spring and won Defensive MVP honors. He is in line to have a terrific season. The Hokies return three starters up front, including both tackles Derrick Hopkins and Luther Maddy. Even though the Hokies had their share of inconsistency on D, the rushing D still ranked in the Top 30 in the country and played much better as the year went on. There are some concerns over depth at tackle, where the Hokies are going to have to rely on some freshmen to help out. Defensive coordinator Bud Foster is concerned about the youth there, but he also said he saw improvement this spring.

Weakest position: Receiver

We could have gone in a number of directions here on offense, because there are weaknesses at every single position. Offensive line and running back are not exactly strong suits and are two areas of concern headed into the season as well. But the biggest concern could be at receiver, where there is really one one proven player in D.J. Coles, and he is coming off a knee injury that forced him to miss every game but the opener last season. Receiver was an area of major inconsistency last year, and that contributed to the problems Logan Thomas had. This spring they had their good moments and bad, but way too many drops. If those problems continue into the season, there will not be a whole lot Thomas can do. If he doesn't have anybody consistently catching the ball, then the Hokies' offense will remain stuck in neutral. Among the others Virginia Tech will be relying on: Demitri Knowles, Kevin Asante and Josh Stanford. All are sophomores or freshmen, and Knowles is the only one who was a major contributor last season. Needless to say there is a lot of work yet to be done at this position during fall camp.

More in this series here.