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Tight end Kalvin Cline and wide receiver Willie Byrn both had breakout performances last week against Western Carolina.
MATT GENTRY | The Roanoke Times
Virginia Tech tight end Kalvin Cline turns upfield against Western Carolina.
MATT GENTRY | The Roanoke Times
Virginia Tech and coach Frank Beamer take on East Carolina this Saturday at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in Greenville, N.C.
Thursday, September 12, 2013
BLACKSBURG — With a name like Kalvin Cline, Virginia Tech’s freshman tight end doesn’t need to do much to get noticed.
“It’s a good laugh for everybody,” said Cline, who’s sure to have heard his share of underwear jokes. “But once you hear it, you remember it.”
Meanwhile, Hokies junior wide receiver Willie Byrn has earned the nickname “Paper Boy” from offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler. As in: He always delivers.
“Every time he says it, I say, ‘Paper MAN,’ ” Byrn joked. “But I’ll take whatever nickname I get.”
Both are names Hokies fans might need to remember after their showing against Western Carolina last weekend.
After throwing primarily to D.J. Coles and Demitri Knowles with little success against Alabama, Tech diversified its passing attack last week, completing balls to 10 different players. Cline and Byrn both got their most significant work to date, each catching four passes. Byrn had 58 receiving yards, Cline 46.
“I like having multiple guys,” receivers coach Aaron Moorhead said. “It keeps the room fresh and it keeps the competition open, because guys know if you’re not going to do it, someone else will.”
Cline, a tight end, is not technically in that receivers room, but he’s suddenly a viable passing threat. The 6-foot-4, 238-pounder was an under-the-radar prospect out of Boca Raton, Fla.
He was a standout basketball player most of his life, a Pine Crest School teammate of one-and-done Kentucky star and current Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Knight. Cline finally went out for football his senior season. It runs in his family. His father, Mike, played at Arkansas State and was drafted by the Green Bay Packers.
Mid-major basketball offers came from Richmond, Tulane and San Francisco, but Cline wanted a major school. With only 11 games of football under his belt, he figured he’d walk on at Miami. Then Virginia Tech came calling last spring, well after signing day, with a full scholarship offer.
It was a fortuitous signing, particularly in a Loeffler offense that has the potential to highlight the tight ends. With starter Ryan Malleck out for the season with a shoulder injury, the Hokies lack an athletic receiving tight end. Enter Cline, whose basketball skills translate well.
“Routes are footwork,” Cline said. “Coming off, juking, crossover — everything transfers over. Jumping ability. You throw it up in the end zone, I’m going up to get it.”
Cline, whose only demerit last week was a dropped potential touchdown pass, remains on the second team behind Duan Perez-Means but works in on formations that feature two tight ends.
Byrn, meanwhile, has been waiting for this chance for a while. A 5-foot-10, 186-pounder from First Colonial High in Virginia Beach, he didn’t have a scholarship offer coming out of high school, just walk-on opportunities at Tech, Virginia, Kentucky, Penn State and William and Mary.
He chose to come to Virginia Tech but only got about 40 plays his first three years with the program. It was enough to make him wonder if he’d ever get on the field.
“There was definitely some, not doubt, but just a little bit of frustration,” he said.
He decided simply to focus on enjoying himself in summer workouts and training camp, trying to build a rapport with quarterback Logan Thomas and not putting pressure on himself.
So far, so good. Before the season started, he was placed on scholarship. Tech didn’t get to much of Byrn’s portion of the game plan against Alabama, but he was a dependable target last week against WCU, just like he was all of training camp.
“You know he’s going to be in the spot you want him to be in and he’s going to do the right thing,” Thomas said. “He’s going to be the right depth and you can count on him to catch the ball. He deserves everything he’s gotten this year.”
It remains to be seen if both Cline and Byrn’s roles in the offense stay steady in upcoming weeks, but it’s clear from the Western Carolina game that Thomas is comfortable throwing in their direction. That’s half the battle.
“If you’re on the same page and can anticipate and can get the ball out,” head coach Frank Beamer said, “it’s a lot easier to play quarterback that way.”
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