With spring practice moving past the halfway point, here is a look at the players that have been standing out at each position. Today we look at Wide Receiver.
There are really 4 names that can fit in here – Willie Snead
, Jamill Smith
, Connor Ryan
and Kevonn Mabon
. Snead is the most technically sound and skilled WR in the group, though not big (5-11 195), he has been able to make plays in the screen game as well as down field and led the Cardinals with 89 receptions, 1,148 yards and 9 touchdown grabs. Smith, the 5-8 140 former walk-on, is an adept slot receiver that is able to use his size (or lack thereof) to his advantage by getting lost in the shuffle in secondaries. Smith caught 69 balls for 706 yards a season ago. Ryan is the strong and physical possession receiver of the group. Ryan caught 44 passes for 357 yards a season ago. Mabon is the most dynamic and has the most upside of the group. The 6-3 210 Sophomore caught 23 passes for 335 yards – almost exclusively in the second half of the season in 2012. Mabon's size, athleticism and speed make him one of the top young talents to watch in the Mid-American Conference.
What to watch for: How will they all get on the field? Injuries have been a bit of an issue in the spring as Smith, Ryan and Mabon have all missed some time during practice. For most teams, that would be a major issue, but not this group. That just means that a new handful of players have stepped up and are getting reps that will help them contribute down the road. Included in that group is 6-3 220 Sophomore Jordan Williams, Jr. Chris Shillings and a pair of redshirt freshmen in Tre Roby and Stewart Turner.
Williams, who is similar in size and attributes as Mabon, is another one to watch. Although he played mostly on special teams as a freshman, Williams has the size and speed to give defenses headaches. Shillings played quite a bit a year ago, so expect him to increase production this season. With Smith out at the slot, a pair of fellow "little guys" have stepped up and made big plays in practice – Redshirt Freshman Turner and walk-on Roby, both can fill in well for Smith for a spell.
New Face to watch: Aaron Clay is the lone WR recruit for 2013. He is a bigger bodied slot WR that will push Turner and Roby for playing time right away.