With Brian Kelly's new spread offense, the wide receivers take on a more prominent roll, but the position was dealt a blow when one of the 2006 leading receivers, Derrick Stewart, left the squad for academic reasons. Stewart led the Bearcat receivers with 675 yards last season, and he was third on the squad in receptions with 33. He managed these numbers despite starting in only two games.
Replacing Stewart's big play capability will be difficult, but the Bearcats do return their top receiver, Dominick Goodman. Last year, Goody led the team with 40 receptions in only his second year at the position. The ex-Colerain quarterback combines exceptional hands with the innate ability to make people miss for the all important "yards after catch" (YAC). Dominick should be really hitting his stride as he heads into his junior season.
The player that is closest to replacing Stewart's skill set is Marty
Senior Antwuan Giddens has had a pretty nondescript career as a Bearcat,
Another Bearcat waiting for that breakout season is redshirt sophomore
Jared Martin. The high school
quarterback has the speed, athleticism and hands to be an excellent receiver but
has struggled at times to stay healthy.
Jared saw his first game action last year and caught 6 balls for 73 yards
including a 22 yard touchdown against
Two more high school quarterbacks are trying to work their way into the rotation. Junior David Wess has bounced around from position to position, but I expect him to compete with the receivers for playing time in 2007. Wess was described by the previous staff as one of the best athletes on the squad, but he's struggled to find his niche in college. Fifth year senior, Mike Daniels, played quarterback at Princeton High School, but Mike is trying to return from a knee injury that kept him out of last year. Like Wess, Daniels seems to switch positions every year, but I expect Daniels to play receiver instead of running back in 2007.
A player who had a very good spring after redshirting in 2006 was Marcus Barnett. The freshman has good height at 6' 1" but is barely 170 pounds. Nevertheless, Marcus showed good speed and athleticism during April practices. He could be the surprise of the year at the receiver position.
Other veterans that could compete for playing time are walk-ons Charley
Howard and converted
True freshman Armon Binns, O.J. Woodard, Tomaz Hilton and Adrien Robinson are expected to begin their college careers at wide receiver, but I believe we'll see a lot of position experimentation with the freshmen. Woodard, Hilton and Robinson have a decent chance to see the field as true freshmen, but two of them could also change positions. Hilton could easily be moved to safety while Robinson could take his 6' 5" frame and become a hybrid tight end in Kelly's offense.
Although these two true freshmen will likely begin their careers on
defense, they could also be moved to the offensive side of the ball. Last I heard, Clinton Massie's Drew Frey
was slated to line up at safety, but staff members have discussed playing the 6'
3"/200 pounder at a variety of positions.
At one point, Coach Kelly even suggested the talented Frey could grow
into a defensive end later in his career.
I really believe Frey's best position is at receiver, but Bearcat fans
will have to wait and see where he lands.
The other true freshman that will be the hot topic of discussion with
position coaches is Tahree McQueen.
Finally, one veteran could return to wide receiver after spending most of the spring at tight end. Earnest Jackson (6' 3"/215), yet another converted high school quarterback, had 17 catches for 223 yards as a junior, but with Connor Barwin, Kazeem Ali, Doug Jones and Ben Guidugli at tight end, I'm just not sure Jackson will stay there when practice begins in August.