KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Butch Jones knows a great receiver when he sees one, and the more Tennessee’s head coach has seen of Virginia Tech junior Isaiah Ford, the more concerned he gets.
Jones was asked Tuesday if the 17th-ranked Vols planned to shadow the 6-foot-2, 195-pound Ford with their best cover corner, preseason first-team All-SEC pick Cameron Sutton when the teams meet at 8 p.m. Saturday in the “Battle at Bristol.”
“The challenge with Cam matching him up is they are very talented across the board in their receiving corps, so when you give him a lot of coverage and attention, whether it’s double coverage, rolling the coverage, matching him up with Cam, the other wideouts can beat you as well, so we won’t do that,” Jones said.
“In terms of Isaiah, great player, great length, a little over 6-foot-2, has great leaping ability and has tremendous confidence, and it sounds like he’s a great student of the game, and it’s going to be a challenge.”
Ford, who opened the season with 11 catches against Liberty last Saturday, hasn’t gotten as much attention as he might deserve when one considers he set Virginia Tech’s single-season records for catches (75), receiving yardage (1,164) and TD receptions (11) last season.
Jones, who played receiver at Ferris State University and specialized in coaching the position en route to becoming a head coach, said Ford has unique attributes.
“I see an individual who wants to own the ball when it’s in the air, he can get in and out of his breaks, he has very good separation quickness and he can beat you deep,” Jones said. “He can run the hitches, he can run the slants, he can run the curls, he can run the comebacks, he can run the double moves, so he’s as good of a wideout as we’ll face all year.”
Ford was a basketball and football standout at Trinity Christian Academy in Jacksonville, Fla., en route to earning first-team All-ACC honors last season.
Ford held several scholarship offers, among them Clemson, Ohio State, Oregon, Arkansas, Florida, Florida State, Kentucky Michigan State, Mississippi State, South Carolina and West Virginia.