Young Receiving Corps on Battle at Bristol Watchlist
In 2013, Virginia Tech invited freshman walk-on Sam Rogers to their fall football camp. By Week 1, the Mechanicsville, Va. native earned a job as the Hokies' starting fullback - playing in all 13 games and amassing 12 catches for 78 total yards.
In 2014, the 5-foot-10, 222-pound. sophomore has five starts to his credit and has seen playing time in all nine contests this season. Rogers caught five passes for a season high 23 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown grab in the Hokies Week 2 win against Ohio State. With 271 all-purpose yards to date, the talented young player is also proving to be formidable at the line with 10 tackles to his credit in 2014.
As Rogers continues to make his mark on the Hokies' offense, he does so with one goal in mind.
"The reason why I came here is, they told me they want to win a national championship," Rogers said in a 2013 interview. "I want to be part of a team that wants to do that."
While Virginia Tech's trophy case has an empty spot reserved for a future national championship trophy, Rogers may also prove instrumental in leading the Hokies to hoist the trophy at college football's largest game - the 2016 Battle at Bristol.
The Sept. 10 contest pits the Hokies against the University of Tennessee in a game expected to shatter the NCAA attendance record, drawing more than 150,000 fans to Bristol Motor Speedway.
Third-year sophomore Jason Croom snagged the game-tying, come-from-behind touchdown pass in Tennessee's win over SEC East rival South Carolina last Saturday.
Despite battling a wrist injury earlier this season, Croom has established himself as a valuable member of the Volunteer receiving corp. The Norcross, Ga. native has racked up 208 yards on the season with a career high six catches for 76 receiving yards in the team's Oct. 11 win over Chattanooga.
But at 6 foot 5 inches and 243 pounds, Croom is still learning how to best utilize his impressive size.
"Every day that's what I'm thinking about," he said following an early season practice. "You'll see it on the field. Coach Z [receivers coach Zach Azzanni], he's still coaching me up and teaching me different ways, and I'm watching film myself to watch bigger receivers to see how they use their body. I can use it myself."
As Croom and his young teammates continue to develop, the team inches closer to a performance college football's biggest stage - the 2016 Battle at Bristol. Expected to set NCAA attendance records, the Sept. 10 match-up pits the Volunteers against the Virginia Tech Hokies inside the famed Bristol Motor Speedway.