First impressions don’t have to last.
Capital coach Jon Carpenter knows as much when it comes to Chance Knox, his top returning receiver. Knox, who becomes a senior this fall, takes over a role previously handled by talented Cougars wideouts such as Anthony Pittman, Jordan Kinney and Deishawn Harper.
Only Knox wasn’t always the chiseled 5-foot-10, 160-pounder he is right now.
“I bumped into him a couple weeks ago,’’ Carpenter said, “and he’s got a tattoo on his arm and got his muscles all built up. He said, ‘I’ll bet when I was in ninth grade, you’d never thought I’d get a tattoo.’ And I said, ‘No, but I also thought you’d be a holder.’ Cause when he got here, he was like 115 pounds — he was so small, you never even saw him.
“He just worked his tail off, lifting weights and doing everything you’re supposed to do. He’s one of the hardest-working kids I’ve ever seen. He’s worked himself into the rest of it.’’
Knox shouldn’t have too much trouble stepping into duties as the team’s No. 1 wideout, since he actually led Capital in receiving last season, catching 33 passes for 581 yards and seven touchdowns. He also returned a punt for a score against South Charleston.
If you include his production as a sophomore, he’s averaged more than 18 yards a catch the past two seasons and averaged a touchdown every fourth reception (11 TDs in 44 catches). Knox relishes the role of being the top returning receiver in a program that’s featured many talented athletes.
“It’s definitely an honor,’’ he said. “When I came in as a freshman, and even before when I was in middle school, I was looking up to those guys. Now it’s being able to lead that offense with our new quarterback and just being out there and being able to know I’m going to make that catch and get that first down or get that score that we need, and help us in any way.’’
Oh yeah. A new quarterback. That’s kind of the big deal for Capital this off-season, since the Cougars have needed just two starting quarterbacks the past seven years. First came four-year starter and eventual Kennedy Award winner TyRhee Pratt (2012-15), followed by Kerry Martin Jr. (2016-18), who’s now playing at West Virginia University.
Carpenter said that position will come down to senior Logan Spurlock, junior Chris Crowder and sophomore Evan Landers. The versatile Spurlock led the team in tackles last year as a middle linebacker and averaged more than 35 yards per punt.
“He does everything else,’’ Carpenter said. “He’ll Tim Tebow-it for us.’’
Much like he did with Martin, Knox is taking it upon himself to develop a rapport with Spurlock or Landers, who is getting a lot of lead reps during the current three-week summer practice period.
“Really, it’s just trying to get out on the field and throw a ton of reps,’’ Knox said, “and getting to know how he’s going to throw me the ball and how I’m going to run that route so we can both get on the same page. It’s all about reps and you go along the process.
“With me and Kerry, I think that’s how we got into it. Now it’s just working with [Spurlock] every day to get to that point, where he knows where I’m going to be there so he’s got to throw it.’’
Knox knows there will be some bumps in the road before he and his new quarterback are locked into their roles.
“It’s just like when I came in,’’ Knox said. “There’s going to be those days that aren’t great. You’ve just got to shake it off and come back out and try to keep all our guys up — especially him, because he’s got one of the hardest jobs on the field. He’s the commander of our offense. He’s just got to be able to shake that off and hopefully be able to make the next play.’’
Carpenter likes his team’s chances with its passing game, despite having a new QB and losing three of his top six receivers. Also returning out wide are senior-to-be Kerion Martin (15 catches, 310 yards, dive TDs) and junior K.J. Taylor (19 catches, 348 yards, four TDs).
“The good thing for [Knox],’’ Carpenter said, “is the rest of those guys. He’s got the next great ones in K.J. Taylor and Kerion Martin, so that makes it a lot easier for anybody here.’’
Knox has kept busy so far this spring, attending combines at Hurricane and Parkersburg and competing in camps at Kent State, WVU and Appalachian State. He makes an official visit to Kent State on Thursday.
So far, his only Division I scholarship offer has come from Morehead State, but others seem likely to follow, since he’s gotten attention from Appalachian State, Kent State, WVU, VMI and Eastern Kentucky. Knox said he’s also received offers from most Division II programs in West Virginia, including West Liberty, West Virginia State and the University of Charleston.