Army Spring Depth Chart Review: Receivers
Starters: Patrick Laird #81 Sr. Chevaughn Lawrence #21 Jr.
Backups: E.J. Tucker #4 Sr. Anthony Stephens #2 Sr.
Third String: Justin Newman #85 Jr. Scott Williams #9 Sr.
For Army wide receivers playing in a triple option offense the key skill is the ability to block on the perimeter. Option teams usually don't post large passing yards but they normally do well in terms of passing efficiency. Other option teams like Air Force, Navy, and Georgia Tech were ranked in the top 43 in the nation in passing efficiency last fall. Army was ranked a woeful 120th in passing and 114th in passing efficiency in 2012. The Black Knights caught only three touchdown passes last season. It's the position on the offense that could use an upgrade.
Junior starter Chevaughn Lawrence had a productive spring and caught a 19-yard touchdown pass from A.J. Schurr in the Black & Gold spring game. Lawrence was Army's best receiver last year. He led the team with 21 receptions for 357 receiving yards while averaging 17.0 yards per catch. Lawrence is a good athlete but is more of a 6-foot 3possession receiver without the ability to make a lot of yards after the catch. Lawrence had trouble adjusting to the ball in the air last year. He has a tendency to hesitate when running his routes just as he turns to look for the ball. He dropped passes in each of his first three starts. Against Rutgers quarterback Trent Steelman rolled to his left and made a terrific throw to Lawrence who initially looked like he caught the ball for an apparent touchdown. However, Chevaughn dropped the ball when hit by Rutgers cornerback Marcus Cooper. Lawrence simply needs to become more consistent catching the ball. Give him credit for his willingness to improve his blocking over the last few years which helped him earn the starting job.
The other starting wide receiver, Patrick Laird (photo at lower right) is more of a hybrid tight end than a wide receiver. The 6-3, 219 pound senior is physically the strongest wide receiver on the club and the best blocker. Laird caught 11 passes for 125 yards and a touchdown in 2012. Laird is probably the slowest starting receiver in FBS football. While he wasn't able to outrun anyone, early in the year he demonstrated good hands. Laird's only touchdown was a six-yard one-handed reception against Kent State on a throw from A.J. Schurr that was so spectacular it earned ESPN play of the day honors. Laird's limitations were seen during the final six games of 2012 when he made only three catches and was shutout three times. He had a huge drop on a third-and-5 late in the third period against Navy. Steelman hit Laird in the chest with a pass that would have produced a first down and kept a drive alive. The bottom-line is as long as he continues to block well, he'll see playing time.
Ejay Tucker had a good spring and is listed as a co-starter along with Patrick Laird. Last year Tucker appeared in all twelve games. When he played from scrimmage he proved to be a solid blocker. Tucker has just average speed. His only catch came against Temple when backup quarterback A.J. Schurr completed an 18-yard pass. Tucker held the ball despite being hammered by a defensive back on the play.
Backup senior wide receiver Anthony Stephens played very well this spring and seems to have developed chemistry with starting quarterback A.J. Schurr. He has been a disappointment the last two years with his inconsistent play. Stephens won the starting job in 2011 but lost it with his tendency to drop passes and miss blocks. Stephen demonstrated his ability late against Eastern Michigan when he caught two passes from A.J. Schurr for 46 yards and a score. He then returned to form showing his hands are a liability early in the Temple game. Trent Steelman hit him in stride with a pass inside the ten-yard line against the Owls that Stephens just dropped. Stephens needs to build off his performance this spring to see more playing time.
The third string receivers at the end of spring practice were junior Justin Newman and senior Scott Williams. Newman (6-3, 192) is a big target who made a few nice catches this spring. He appeared in four games last year after recovering from shoulder surgery. Newman finished second in the Arizona high school state 400 meters (49.09) finals. Newman is a long strider and he is not very explosive in and out of his breaks despite his track numbers. Senior Scott Williams missed spring practice with an injury. Last year he caught one pass for six yards. Williams has good hands and a quick first step but is small and lacks the speed to be a productive FBS receiver. He appeared in only two of the final six games last year.
The players to watch are the two wide receivers expected to arrive on R-day from last years United States Military Academy Prep school team. Both are bigger and offer more speed and run-after-the-catch ability than anyone currently on the roster. We'll discuss them during the ArmySports.com Incoming series which provides our scouting reports about the new plebes after R-Day.
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