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Known as Returner, Roberts Growing as Receiver

Dyrell Roberts has already proved what a special teams weapon he could be for Virginia Tech. But this week he said he was hoping to make a difference in the Hokies’ offense.

In the past two years, Roberts, a sophomore, has proven to be one of the Hokies’ big-play threats. Although he has mainly been valuable as a kick returner, he said this week that he had hope for the Hokies’ offense as No. 14 Virginia Tech (0-1) prepared takes on Marshall (1-0) at Lane Stadium on Saturday.

With a handful of young players at skill positions, the Hokies' offense appears to still be maturing and finding its footing. Roberts, a wide receiver, is one of those players who is still developing. He played running back in high school.

“Coming in last year, I didn’t really understand the receiver position at all,” Roberts said. “I knew the routes that I had to run, but I didn’t really know how to master the routes. Coming into this year, I think the area where I most improved was learning the coverages.”

Roberts’s specialty has always been returning kickoffs. As a high school senior, he averaged 40 yards per kickoff return and scored five touchdowns on special teams.

Since he arrived at Virginia Tech, Roberts has mainly been a weapon for his returning ability. His 545 kickoff return yards last year rank fifth all-time in a single season. He produced a few dazzling returns, including a 55-yard return against Maryland and a 54-yard return against Florida State.

In last Saturday’s 34-24 loss to Alabama, his 195 kickoff yards were 19 shy of Virginia Tech’s single-game record, set by Marcus Mickel in 1989. Roberts provided one of the Hokies’ highlight moments of the game by returning a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown.

“I enjoy doing kicks a lot,” Roberts said. “When I’m doing kick returns, it’s secondhand to me. I don’t have to think about it. Once I get the ball, I’m just looking for a hole.”

Roberts has not yet shined as a wide receiver, but he showed flashes of his potential. He played in all 14 games last season, starting five as a wide receiver. He displayed his ability as a playmaker on his first collegiate catch: a 62-yard reception against East Carolina.

But since Roberts has been at Virginia Tech, the Hokies have failed to get their offense off of the ground. They ranked 111th in passing offense, with 129.07 yards per game. The Hokies managed only 91 passing yards against Alabama. Roberts had no receptions against Alabama, although quarterback Tyrod Taylor threw to him four times.

As the Hokies' passing game continues to develop under Taylor, Roberts said he saw promise in the offense. And if the Hokies can start to move the ball through the air, Roberts should play an important role as a quick-strike threat.

“I’m really anxious just to see where our offense can go,” Roberts said. “Because I know we have the talent, we have the skill to do whatever we want to do as an offense. And I just can’t wait until we reach that peak.”

By Mark Viera  |  September 11, 2009; 12:11 PM ET
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