Simply put, Virginia receiver Dontayvion Wicks turned in a whale of a season in 2021. Look no further than the other big fish he joined in school history for proof.
Wicks became UVA’s single-season record holder with 1,203 receiving yards as he passed Herman Moore on the charts and tied Germane Crowell for the most 100+-yard receiving games in a season as well. He averaged 21.1 yards per catch, the most in the ACC and fifth in the nation. He received first-team All-ACC honors and made the honorable mention All-America Team for the Pro Football Network.
Oh, and then there was this:
So, yes, 2021 turned out to be a breakout year for Wicks. Similar to how his UVA put him in the company of Moore and Crowell, new Virginia coach Tony Elliott placed him in some rare air from the Clemson days too when he said Wicks is as good as any he’s been around. Though Elliott didn’t call them by name, that would include players like DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins, and Tee Higgins to name a few.
“Tay, and I’ve told him this, he’s as a good as the guys that I’ve been around for the last 11 years from a talent standpoint,” Elliott said. “He can do it all. He’s got the speed, he’s the got the short area quickness, he’s got the natural hands, he’s a tough guy so he’s got it all.”
It hasn’t been all bubblegum praise from Elliott, though. He described the Cavalier receiver as one of the players that didn’t jump right on board when the coaching change happened this past winter. The pool analogy from the head coach was one foot in the water.
It’s easy to see why a successful receiver might have a little bit of hesitancy. Wicks just put up the big numbers mentioned above and he’s at least on some NFL Draft radars already. Then the incoming coaches arrived with new schemes to overhaul it all.
Elliott understood why that may be the case. Then he challenged Wicks directly for more.
“Because he’s had success. He knows he’s the best one returning,” Elliott said. “For me, my coaching style is I’m going at the best one. I’m coaching the best one harder than anybody else because in order for us to be the team we want to be, the best players got to be the hardest workers. They’ve got to lead every single day. At first there was a little resistance, but I’m proud of how he’s responded. I’ve seen that every area of his life has improved. Just in terms of his commitment, engagement in the classroom has improved. He’s trying to lead. His body language is a lot better from where we started. So I’m pleased with his spring, but I think he still has another step that he can take because he has a chance to be as good as the ones I’ve been around the last 11 years just from a talent standpoint, but he’s got to make that commitment that he wants to be the best at everything he does every single time he steps on the field.”
Wicks received the message and has turned the page to 2022. With Brennan Armstrong back, there’s room for another big year even if the numbers and style change.
“Basically, let last year go because...
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