BLACKSBURG – Unlike a lot of running backs, Chris Mangus never cut his teeth on the high school varsity squad by playing receiver first before being shuffled to tailback. He was always a tailback at Broughton High School in Raleigh, N.C., and a great one, too. He rushed for 1,628 yards and 28 touchdowns as a senior and 1,312 yards and 13 touchdowns as a junior.
But the 6-foot, 184-pound redshirt freshman never flinched when running backs coach Shane Beamer approached him two days ago about a possible move to receiver.
“He actually came up to me and asked me if I’d like to help the team out and help out at receiver,” Mangus said. “I told him I didn’t have a problem with it because I like to get the ball in space. So I didn’t have a problem with it.
“Right now, I like it. I think it’s a good move for me and the team. I’m still learning a lot and getting used to the position.”
Tuesday’s practice marked Mangus’ second as a receiver, as Tech’s coaching staff tries to add some depth to a group in desperate need of bodies and talent. Basically, Mangus and Joel Caleb switched positions. Tech’s staff moved Caleb, a former receiver, to tailback early last week to get a bigger body at that position.
That move took reps away from Mangus, but the young man, to his credit, didn’t complain.
“I wasn’t disappointed at all,” he said. “Joel’s a great athlete. He can play all around the field. I feel like it was a good move for him, and I feel like he can do good things at running back.”
Mangus hopes to get the same opportunities at receiver, and he’s been getting a lot of reps. D.J. Coles is the Hokies’ most experienced receiver, he still doesn’t look quite 100 percent from his knee injury of a year ago, and walk-on Charley Meyer, whom receivers coach Aaron Moorehead was counting on, hasn’t done a lot while nursing a hamstring issue.
Other than Coles, only Demitri Knowles, walk-on Willie Byrn and Josh Stanford possess any game experience – and Stanford played in just one game last season as a true freshman. So true freshmen Deon Newsome, Carlis Parker and David Prince have been getting a lot of reps the past two weeks.
Now the staff is adding an even more inexperienced player to the mix.
“I played it a little in high school every once in a while when they [his coaches] moved me out [outside],” Mangus said. “But I never really played receiver. It’s new. Right now, I’m just learning all the plays and learning routes and where to line up.
“I believe I can help. It’s just a matter of how much I put into it. If I learn the playbook and keep working hard, I believe I’ll earn a spot and play.”
Mangus caught two passes for 13 yards in the Hokies’ first scrimmage. He hopes it’s the start of a bright future – either at receiver or running back.
“Right now, I do like receiver,” he said. “I wouldn’t mind playing it. But I do like running back as well. I wouldn’t mind if they put me back at running back. Whatever is best for the team.”
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