BLACKSBURG — Virginia Tech has a mixture of familiar faces repping at kick return with new ones.
Terius Wheatley, Caleb Farley and Deshawn McClease are repping on special teams after returning kicks at various points in 2018.
Wheatley, who battled a shoulder injury last season, is the Hokies most experienced kick returner. He returned 13 kicks for 346 yards (26.6 yards per return) with two returns of 50 yards or more. Farley and McClease each returned seven kicks for 152 yards.
“Terius was productive when he was healthy at kick returner last year at kickoff returner,” Fuente said. “Caleb had some opportunities for some big plays. I don’t know how it’s all going to shake out ‘til one separates themselves in a game. I don’t know exactly.”
As a team, Virginia Tech ranked No. 36 in the country averaging 22.6 yards per return.
Virginia Tech’s kick return unit has been productive under Fuente’s watch, but the team is still looking for an elusive touchdown. The team hasn’t returned a kickoff for a touchdown since Demitri Knowles ran one back against North Carolina in October 2012.
That’s why Fuente is also evaluating Nadir Thompson, Jaden Payoute, Tayvion Robinson and Keshawn King. Payoute, Robinson and King are all true freshman.
“We will have a kicking scrimmage here in a few days and hopefully get a couple specific reps for a couple guys and maybe have that paired down a little more,” Fuente said.
This wasn’t the first time Robinson’s name has come up during fall camp.
“Definite a baller,” quarterback Hendon Hooker said of the freshman receiver.
Fuente floated his name as a candidate to return punts after two practices calling him a “natural” at the position. Wide receivers coach Jafar Williams echoed those comments a week later.
Reporters caught a glimpse of Robinson’s speed on a one-on-one drill with defensive backs held during the open portion of the Hokies' Aug. 3 practice when he blew past his man with a quick head fake for a 50-yard touchdown.
“He’s in the mix right now at that position, and he’s doing a pretty good job as a young guy learning the technique of tracking punts and, also, catching the ball and all the things you need to know,” Williams said. “I would say special teams is always a way for young guys to get playing time and get on field fast.”
King is turning heads at running back with his similar explosiveness.
“He’s not scared,” Fuente said. “I mean, he pours it up in there and he’s got some elite quickness. He’s been fun to watch so far.”