Friday, July 28, 2006

2006 Opponent Preview - Wide Receivers | by Pat

Quarterbacks? Check. Running backs? Check. Now for the wonderful wideouts.


Calvin Johnson. 54 receptions, 888 yards, 6 TDs. Returning starter.
James Johnson. 14 receptions, 185 yards, 2 TDs. New starter.

The big name here is Calvin Johnson (right), perhaps the best wide receiver in college football. Johnson is big, strong, has fantastic hands, and he's particulary dangerous on long pass plays to the corner of the endzone. He has been nicked up a bit in the past, but should be healthy for the first game of the season. James Johnson was the team's third leading receiver last year and has the chance to benefit from all of the attention given to Calvin, but James missed the entire spring with injury. Depth: Xavier McGuire has plenty of size at 6-4, 215 pounds and senior Chris Dunlap has a chance to step up from being a special teams standout. Another one-time ND verbal commit, Martin Fierson, snagged three touchdown passes in the GT spring game so he just might be ready for a solid year as well.


Derrick Williams. 22 receptions, 289 yards, 1 TD. Returning starter.
Deon Butler. 37 receptions, 691 yards, 9 TDs. Returning starter.
Jordon Norwood. 32 receptions, 422 yards, 0 TDs. Returning starter.

The Nittany Lion receiving corp is led by a trio of sophomores who were all thrust into action last year. Derrick Williams (left), the consensus #1 recruit out of high school, was becoming more and more dangerous until he broke his arm and was forced to miss the rest of the season. This season he'll probably the be the #1 option on offense due to his playmaking abilities. Look for him to get a few carries out of the backfield too. Former walk-on defensive back Deon Butler helped replace Williams when he was hurt was and wound up leading the team in receptions. Butler isn't the biggest receiver at 5-10, 166 pounds but has good hands and his 18.7 yards per catch last season hints at deep threat potential. Jordon Norwood rounds out the sophomore trio; he was the team's leading receiver in the Orange Bowl and was very solid in the PSU spring game. Depth: Big-time recruit Justin King played some receiver last year, but will focus soley on cornerback this year. Still, he's an option if the team needs him. Junior Terrell Gordon adds a bit more experience while brief Notre Dame verbal commit James McDonald and incoming freshman and highly touted recruit Chris Bell add more size to the Nittany Lion receiving corp.


Steve Breaston. 26 receptions, 291 yards, 2 TDs. Returning starter.
Mario Manningham. 27 receptions, 433 yards, 6TDs. Returning starter.

Steve Breaston returns for his final year wearing the winged helmet and is poised for a solid senior campaign. Often hobbled by injuries, the star return man seems healthy and ready to be even more of a dangerous weapon in the open field. And as with the Notre Dame game last year, look for Breaston on a number of reverses this year. Mario Manningham (right) had a breakout freshman year and if he can improve his route-running should have a great sophomore year. His 16.0 yards per catch was tops on the team and he will probably be the deep threat weapon for the Wolverines this season. Depth: There are a number of names here familiar to recruitniks, but not much in the way of experience yet. The depth chart took a hit when Antonio Bass tore his ACL in the spring. He's likely out for the entire season and definitely shouldn't be back for the ND game. Adrian Arrington is the tall target in the Michigan arsenal and if he can shake his ankle issues should be a solid #3 WR for the Wolverines. Rounding out the group are a senior, Carl Tabb, and a redshirt freshman, LaTerryal Savoy, with a fair amount of potential.


Jerramy Scott. 49 receptions, 722 yards, 4 TDs. Returning starter.
Matt Trannon. 40 receptions, 573 yards, 4 TDs. Returning starter.
Terry Love. 28 receptions, 430 yards, 3 TDs. Returning starter.

The Spartan receiving unit doesn't have any All-American players, but it will be one of the most complete groups that the Irish will face. There is plenty of experience and a good mix of size and speed. Jerramy Scott led the team in receptions last year and has started 22 games in his MSU career. Matt Trannon (left), who co-stars on the Spartan basketball team, is a huge target at 6-6 and also has good speed to evade tacklers. ND fans might recall his 65-yard TD catch and run last year. He'll need to become more consistent as he had 6 games last year where he failed to top 36 yards. Terry Love is a quick receiver who can do damage on shorter routes if too much attention is paid to Scott and Trannon. Depth: Kerry Reed is a JUCO transfer who started slow last year, but came on strong later in the year. He also led the Spartans in TD receptions. Carl Grimes, brother of ND receiver David, is a speedy threat with good hands and Ryan Allison is a 6-3 sophomore who didn't see much action as a freshman, but has a bright future with the Spartans.


Dorien Bryant. 80 receptions, 960 yards, 4 TDs. Returning starter.
Kyle Ingraham. 41 receptions, 500 yards, 0 TDs. Returning starter.
Selwyn Lymon. academically ineligible. New starter.

Dorien Bryant (right) is a speed threat with good hands who will also see the ball as a kick returner and rusher. His 1,561 all-purpose yards and 8 all-purpose touchdowns in 2005 highlight his versatility. Quick in the open field and with enough speed to be a deep threat, Bryant will be the top target of Purdue QB Painter. Kyle Ingraham missed the spring due to academics, but if he's back on the team in the fall, the 6-9 receiver will pose problems for defensive backs all year. Selwyn Lymon is a 6-4 blue chip recruit who was ineligble last year but should show up in the fall and work right in with the first team. He's strong and fast, and if he can learn the offense, he'll be a threat. Depth: Greg Orton is another 6-4 receiver who could work his way into the starting rotation with a strong fall camp. Just a freshman last year, Orton has a bright future. Angelo Chattams is a dependable veteran reserve and will add experience and depth to the Purdue receivers. Purdue has a fast, tall, and deep receiving corp, but the high expectations be undone if a few key players like Ingraham and Lymon run into any complications returning to the team.


Mark Bradford. 37 receptions, 609 yards, 6 TDs. Returning starter.
Evan Moore. 1 reception, 22 yards, 1 TD. Returning starter.

Mark Bradford (left) has been a bright spot on the Stanford Cardinal the past few years and this year should be no different. A nice sized target at 6-2, Bradford will be a leader on offense for Stanford and a quality opponent for the Irish defenders. Evan Moore has power forward height at 6-7 but must recover fully from a hip injury that knocked him out for the season last year in the Cardinal opener. If he's back, he'll be another quality receiver and a very dangerous red zone weapon. Depth: There really isn't much depth on the team behind Bradford and Moore. Marcus McCutcheon is the only other receiver on the team with a collegiate reception and he only has 3 to his name. One-time running back Michael Miller and walk-ons Charlie Hazlehurt and Kelton Lynn will look to round out the depth chart. Freshman Richard Serman has size at 6-3 and a track background that could translate into early playing time if none of the other receivers step up in fall camp.


Joe Cowan. 35 receptions, 469 yards, 3 TDs. Returning stater.
Junior Taylor. 6 receptions, 109 yards, 2 TDs. Returning starter.

The Bruins return every single wideout from last year, but they lose tight end Marcedes Lewis and running back Maurice Drew, who were their #1 and #3 receivers. Brother of backup QB Pat, Joe Cowan was their #2 receiver and he will be back. At 6-4, he will be a tough matchup on jump ball plays and with 34 games played under his belt, is not new to the field. Veteran Junior Taylor (right) returns from a knee injury that knocked him out early in his senior year (a la Rhema McKnight) and will add more leadership and experience to the Bruins receiving corp. Depth: Marcus Everett missed the first two games of 2005 with an injury, but was still the 4th leading receiver on the team. He'll be fighting Junior Taylor for a starting spot early in the season. Sophomore Gavin Ketchum played in every game last year and if he continues to develop, Gavin and his 6-4 frame could play a bigger role this season. Incoming freshman Terrance Austin was a one-time ND recruit and has plenty of speed and quickness.


Jason Tomlinson. 25 receptions, 445 yards, 1 TD. Returning starter.
Tyree Barnes. 6 receptions, 154 yards, 2 TDs. New starter.

I say that these previews are all about production, experience, and potential, but it is hardest to ignore coaching when looking at the Navy receivers. It's difficult to tell just how good they really are, since they're targeted so infrequently. Jason Tomlinson (left) is a veteran with plenty of speed and is a great blocker. He also has best hands on the team according to Coach Johnson. Tyree Barnes appears to be a leading candidate for co-starter alongside Tomlinson. Blocking skills tend to get receivers on the field early for Navy and has the size at 6-2 175 to be a competent one. Depth: O.J. Washington doesn't have the size of Tomlinson or Barnes, but is a speedster who could get behind the defense if the forget to worry about him. Kyle Kimbro is another big receiver who's best contributions so far have been his blocking skills.


Jesse Holley. 47 receptions, 670 yards, 1 TD. Returning starter.
Brooks Foster. 0 receptions, 0 yards, 0 TDs. New starter.

Jesse Holley(right) is the star of this outfit, but also the only receiver on the team who caught a pass last year. A durable All-ACC honorable mention, the 6-3 Holley was also a walk-on with the basketball team as a freshman. On the football field he was the team's leading receiver, yet he only caught one touchdown last year. The #2 spot opposite Holley looks like it's still up in the air with Brooks Foster the early leader. Foster is another basketball team walk-on and starred on special teams last year. Like Holley, Foster is 6-3 which gives the Tarheels a fairly tall starting receiver lineup. Depth: Brandon Tate was the team's best returner as a freshman last year and might find more passes thrown his way in his sophomore season. The biggest receiver on the team at 6-5, 225 pounds, Kenton Thompson has high expectations from UNC fans but first has to crack the rotation. Freshman Deunta Williams was a big recruit who will add more speed to the receiver depth chart.


Victor Thompson. 6 receptions, 59 yards, 1 TD. New starter.

Like Navy, the Falcon receivers are used more often for their blocking skills. Still, there are occasions when Air Force will throw the ball and Victor Thompson (left) is the best returning wide receiver on the team. The top two targets from last year are gone so Victor will need to step up his game in order to keep the threat of the pass alive. Depth: Mark Root is a bit taller than Victor, but hasn't caught a pass yet so his contributions in that area are still largely unknown. Sophomore Mike Moffett adds a bit more depth.


Jeremy Trimble. 42 receptions, 535 yards, 4 TDs. Returning starter.
Walter Hill. 34 receptions, 410 yards, 2 TDs. Returning starter.

Army returns its top two receivers and Jeremy Trimble (right) should be the go-to-guy in the Black Knight offense. He's quick and experienced and was named an all-CUSA Freshman in 2004, while leading the team in receptions in 2005. Senior Walter Hill has good hands, is solid over the middle, and has experience experience but is more of a possession type receiver than deep threat. Depth: Corey Anderson isn't very big at 5-8, but the speedster is one of the fastest players on the team and a good kick returner. Senior Mike Castelli and 6-4 sophomore Elliot Emmerich had solid springs but might not see many passes thrown their way initially.


Dwayne Jarrett. 91 receptions, 1274 yards, 16 TDs. Returning starter.
Steve Smith. 60 receptions, 957 yards, 5 TDs. Returning starter.

The best receiving corp that the Irish will face and probably the best receiving corp in the nation. Dwayne Jarrett (left) is the star of this ballyhooed group. One of the best receivers in the nation, the 6-5 Jarrett has size, speed, and with even more experience should have a stellar junior year. Joining him yet again will be the sure-handed Steve Smith who has over 100 career receptions for the Trojans. Depth: Patrick Turner looks to be the next big star receiver for the Trojans. Also 6-5, this should be his breakout year. Chris McFoy has never grabbed too many headlines, but started 16 games over the past three years and adds another veteran presence to the team. Ryan Ting shifted over from free safety but by November might be overtaken by one of talented receivers the Trojans brought in. David Ausberry is already big at 6-5, 215 pounds while 6-3 Vidal Hazelton was one of the most heavily recruited receivers in the nation. Jamere Holland and Travon Patterson add speed threats to a receiving corp heavy on tall receivers.

2006 Wide Receiver Analysis and Ranking

I hope the Irish secondary is ready and I hope tinkering with the pass rush pays off, because there are a number of impressive threats lining up at wideout against us this fall. If Samardzija doesn't win the Biletnikoff Award for best college receiver, it will probably go to one of two Irish opponents, Dwayne Jarrett or Calvin Johnson. And players like Dorien Bryant, Steve Breaston, Mario Manningham, Derrick Williams, and Mark Bradford are no slouches. Experience-wise, 8 of the 12 teams return two or more starting wide receivers, so there won't be a whole lot of wide-eyed newbies running routes against ND.

Honestly, I'm not too worried about teams with only one stud receiver (like Tech) but teams with two or more quality targets like USC, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, Stanford, and Purdue will quickly reveal if the Irish pass defense has improved. Luckily, the Irish will face a talented receiving duo in practice everyday that I honestly think is as good as any in the nation, so hopefully that will help with the defensive preparation.

To be honest, I had a hard time ranking these units. After Southern Cal, who I think have the best receiver group in the nation, the #2 through #7 corps aren't all that far apart. Purdue is especially interesting. If Kyle Ingraham and Selmon Lymon are back with the team from day one, they'll combine with Dorien Bryant and Greg Orton to form a very talented wideout group that honestly could be the best in the Big Ten. Phil Steele's numbers (he ranked the top 66 wideouts) are included once again in parentheses.

1. USC - Jarrett (#2) and Smith (#7) are stars now. Turner (#57) and the freshman are potential stars.
2. Michigan State - No All-Americans, but Trannon (#48) and Co. are a deep and solid corp of receivers.
3. Michigan - Breaston (#35) and Manningham (#20) are a good 1-2 punch. Need someone else to step up.
4. Penn State - Williams (#14) , Butler (#49), and Norwood are a young, but talented trio.
5. Georgia Tech - Calvin Johnson (#1) by himself gives this unit a boost.
6. Purdue - If Ingraham (#34) and Lymon are back and ready to join Bryant (#18), #6 is probably too low.
7. Stanford - Bradford (#37), Moore, and not too much else.
8. UCLA - Cowan and Taylor aren't superstars, but have a decent amount of experience.
9. North Carolina - Holley (#52) will need someone else to make plays and help take attention off him.
10. Navy - Tomlinson will be a threat when Navy decides to throw and a great blocker when they don't.
11. Army - Experienced starters are back, but nothing that is especially worrisome.
12. Air Force - Not much in the way of returning experience or potential.

Next up: Tight Ends and Offensive Lines