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Tre Turner Ready to Emerge for Virginia Tech

By Dave Holcomb
SouthernPigskin.com
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In 2019, sophomore Tre Turner might be the next star wideout to emerge.

Historically, Virginia Tech has been known for strong defense and special teams. Under previous head coach Frank Beamer, that style of play became such as big part of the program, we coined the phrase “Beamer Ball” to describe it.

But under coach Justin Fuente, who is entering his fourth season at the helm of the Virginia Tech football program, the Hokies have developed a more dynamic offense, featuring high-volume receivers. Even last season when starting quarterback Justin Jackson broke his leg in Week 2, the Hokies still had a wide receiver post more than 800 yards.

In 2019, sophomore Tre Turner might be the next star wideout to emerge.

Turner possesses the prototypical size and length of the receiver that’s excelled in Fuente’s system at Virginia Tech. Standing at 6-foot-2 and 187 pounds, Turner is just about the same size as Isaiah Ford, who was 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds. Cam Phillips was a bit bigger, weighing about 200 pounds, but was the same height.

Ford and Phillips each excelled as possession receivers for Virginia Tech. Ford posted a 1,000-yard campaign during Fuente’s first season with the Hokies in 2016 while Phillips recorded back-to-back 900-yard seasons in 2016 and 2017. Phillips averaged 12.8 yards per reception during his career and scored seven touchdowns in his senior season.

Turner, however, possesses more than just a similar body type to Ford and Phillips. The sophomore-to-be brings a speed element to his game that could make him one of the best deep-ball wideouts in the ACC this season.

As a freshman, Turner averaged 20.6 yards per reception in 2018, which was best on the team. With that average, he posted 535 receiving yards despite making just 26 catches. His yards per catch average was fourth-best in the ACC among qualified receivers.

Now, Turner’s average could drop if he receives more targets this fall, but he clearly has the ability to take the top off defenses, giving Virginia Tech a much needed deep threat.

Last season, Damon Hazelton Jr. led the Hokies with 51 receptions and 802 receiving yards. The transfer from Ball State registered those numbers despite catching passes from a backup signal caller for most of the season. With that in mind, it’s easy to assume Hazelton will be the next Ford or Phillips while Turner will remain more of a deep threat.

But in three of the final four games last season, including the bowl game, Turner posted more receiving yards than Hazelton. During those final four weeks, Turner recorded 12 catches for 288 yards and two touchdowns.

With those numbers, Turner’s yards per catch average actually went up with more opportunities. After October, he registered 17 receptions and maintained an average of 20.0 yards per grab. Furthermore, all four of his touchdowns on the season came after Oct. 24.

In the back half of the 2018 season, Virginia Tech did whatever it could to get the ball in Turner’s hands in open space. He took a jet sweep 43 yards and returned a punt 23 yards against rival Virginia. Turner posted another 20-plus yard carry against Cincinnati in the Military Bowl, and he rushed for 25 yards and a score versus Miami.

During the final four games, Turner touched the ball 21 times, including his punt return. Meanwhile, Hazelton had 14 touches, including special teams, during that same span.

Hazelton may lead Virginia Tech in receptions again, but it’s clear that Turner is viewed as the team’s most dynamic playmaker. He should have plenty more opportunities as a sophomore in 2019 and could emerge as one of the most talented wide receivers in the ACC, following the new Virginia Tech tradition established under Fuente.