This group has loads of talent, and it wouldn't be too surprising to see a breakout year from any one of them, but these are the BroncoCountry 'wildcards' in the bunch:
Vinnie Perretta: No surprise, when you get raves from a player like TJ Acree, you can expect people to be watching you.
Josh Smith: Smith came in last year with lots of hoopla, he has all the talent to have a big Senior season, and will be motivated after a sub-par season last year and after learning the offense. He might be the sleeper of the group.
Cole Classen: 1 year to shine. 1 year to play. 1 year to prove Oregon State wrong. Anyone think he'll be up for the game in Corvalis?
Jerard Rabb: Might be too good to not play immediately. He has the size and speed that all Top-25 teams want at WR. Has an incredible resume of athleticism and accomplishments. Question is, can he shine past what's already on the Blue?
With the talent in the new class of recruits, we could end up seeing 6'3" and 6'4" targets with speed added to the mix right away. That size represents a change to what we're used to seeing. Given the complexity of this offense and the time it takes to master both your reads and your blocking assignments, that may still be a year away. But looking at our wide receivers for 2005, many are seniors so we'll see a much taller group at wideout in 2006 and likely for years after that.
Fear not, in 2005 the options will be plenty for our QB's to throw to no matter it works out. The roster is deep with receivers, even if the game experience isn't there (sound familiar?).
Before we attempt to list a 2 deep depth chart, our receivers will more than likely be led by all everything Junior TE Derek Schouman who played in only 7 games last season due to a leg injury. Schou led the team in yards per catch at 18.9 and in receptions per touchdown as a sophomore and he returns as a third year starter, 100% healthy.
We ran a lot of 2 TE sets last year as well as sets with a fullback. I personally don't see that changing all that much given the talent at running back and the size and talent we're going to see at OL. So that leaves us looking for our 2 deep roster for the X and Z receiver positions.
Best guess today is that Jr. Drisan James replaces Lawrence Bady at the Z position. James was second on the team in receiving yards last year at close to 600, with a 14.2 ypc average. A guy the staff had been waiting on to bust out, James did just that towards the end of last season. The 5'11" speedster out of Phoenix, Az is now making the catches in games that he makes in practice. Will see lots of playing time even if he's not the starter, but it's hard to see him as a backup.
At X, T.J. Acree is gone and currently working out in preparation for a shot a pro ball. Acree replaced Tim Gilligan in 2004 so we're used to the under 6 foot, fast and tough as hell receiver in this position. This receiver works opposite of the TE in our single TE sets, and has to make plays out there on his own. My surprise guess for this slot is redshirt freshman Vinnie Perretta and not just because he looks like TJ Acree in his uniform or that he was a walkon that earned his scholarship after getting here. Probably the toughest redshirt decision the coaching staff last season was Perretta. The kid can flat out play and was a star on scout team last year. I spoke to T.J. Acree about Perretta, and TJ just smiled and said that Vinney could have easily played last year and gotten many passes thrown his way. Rumor is that Perretta has the quickest feet in the receiver corps and once he gets the ball is a tough guy to get ahold of. Same kind of moves we saw from Gilligan in his final year and he's only a freshman.
Fighting for that 2 deep, and that doesn't mean all that much in this program since coach Pete will use whoever shows up in practice each week, are returning players:
Sr. Chris Christopher (6', 180lbs; 13 catches for 197 yds and 2 of the most athletic receptions ever seen at Bronco stadium, one that made the ESPN play of the day)
Sr. Josh Smith (5'11", 175 lbs; 7 catches for 72 yds)
Sr. Jason Murray (6', 187 lbs; 4 catches for 43 yds)
Jr. Legadu Naanee (6'2", 235lbs; 4 catches for 45 yards)
Jr. Jerard Rabb (6'3", 200lbs; 83 catches for 1368 yds and 15 TD's as an All State JC player last year. Huge upside for Rabb in our program. Could see significant playing time early. Fast, great hands, good attitude, Rabb is one thing we've been looking for in our offense for a long time (as has coach Pete).
Fr. Jeremy Childs (6' 170lbs; true freshman and a prize of the recruiting class for 2005. CBS Sportsline All American and member of EA Sports All National team. Caught 85 passes for 1258 yds with 22 TD's last season. Wants to play now, but with the depth in front of him, he'll probably redshirt. We'll see if it's this year or next, but he will be a star here and it's nice to have him for at least 4 years)
Fr. Aiona Key (6'4", 205lbs; first team All State at wide receiver out of California. Obviously has the size and was a 7 foot high jumper in high school too. Could be equally good at safety as he loves to hit and was all league at safety, but he's simply too talented to not put at wideout. Probably a redshirt candidate)
Sr. Cole Classen (5'8", 190lbs; a transfer from Oregon State that saw significant playing time in 2003 but saw something last year that made him want to play his senior year in Boise. A tough, gritty possession receiver that just keeps making plays. Not a game breaker but a go to guy. Has 1 year to play 1, so if we're going to utilize him, it has to be now. Also was a punt returner for Oregon State)
Best guess today for the backup at Z receiver is Chris Christopher. He's a big play waiting to happen and seems really focused for a big senior year.
And I'm going with Classen as the backup to Perretta at X.
So, what can we expect from this group in 2005?
We should see more TD's from wide receivers than we did in 2004. And this will be mainly because Z will be one year wiser with the system and should make more throws with his WR's in stride. This is something he struggled with from time to time. But we may not see any more throws per game, again given the running game we can put on the field. But this will be a fun group to watch as this year and the coming years roll on.