The ‘AFROS' are ready to roll.
The wide receiver group for the University of Louisville football team calls themselves "America's Finest Receivers On Saturday," and they are primed and ready to try and live up to that billing once again this season.
Louisville returns the team's top three receivers from last season, adds some depth and talent from two transfers and several freshmen and coach Ron Dugans said the AFROS are "ready go out and make some plays."
"We have to replace Andrell Smith and he was a very physical guy," Dugans said. "But we do have a few guys back. Hopefully, we can go out there and continue to make plays and continue to improve."
Junior DeVante Parker is the star of the group, back after 40 catches for a team-high 744 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. He had 18 catches for 291 yards and six touchdowns as a freshman and is being mentioned as a potential NFL guy.
But there are other stars in the fold.
Senior Damian Copeland is the leader of the group after catching a team-high 50 balls for 628 yards and two TDs last season. Copeland, who was injured much of his career until last season, is currently sidelined with a minor injury. He's listed as day-to-day by the U of L staff and should return soon.
Junior Eli Rogers, a high school teammate with Teddy Bridgewater at Miami Northwestern, hauled in 46 passes for 505 yards and two TDs last season. He has 87 catches for 959 yards in two years with the Cardinals.
"They have a lot of guys who can make plays out there," defensive coordinator Vance Bedford said of the offense. "Playmakers."
Freshman James Quick of Trinity High School was the highest-rated recruit in the '13 class for the Cardinals and has been running some with the first team. He's expected to see a bit of action as a freshman.
Florida transfer Robert Clark is a speedy receiver with a huge upside. He's expected to be in the game a bunch and has also been running with the first team.
"The biggest thing with Robert Clark in the spring is that he was not very detailed," Dugans said. "Now, he's studied the game in the offseason and more he's getting more and more under control."
Tennessee transfer Matt Milton is a 6-foot-5 target backing up Parker, while Kai De La Cruz and Jarrett Davis – currently injured – are viable options.
"You can't play them all," Dugans said about the depth. "But these guys each now their role. These guys don't care about who is getting the ball. They just all want to go out there and make the play."
Robert Clark, Junior
DeVante Parker is the best receiver, Eli Rogers has been the most consistent, Damien Copeland is the leader and James Quick has the most hype.
But watch out this season for Clark.
The 5-foot-9, 175-pound transfer from Florida will add will add a measure of explosiveness on the offensive side of the ball and on special teams. Clark is one of the fastest players on the team and has drawn rave reviews.
As a redshirt freshman at Florida in 2011, Clark caught seven passes for 69 yards and saw action in 11 games. He scored a TD against Florida State.
Clark is primed for a big-time season.
Matt Milton, Junior
Parker is going to be the go-to guy in the ‘X' receiver position but his backup – Matt Milton – is just as capable.
The 6-foot-5, 210-pound Milton is a transfer from Tennessee and is called "Stretch" by quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
"He's really adjusted and playing well," Bridgewater said.
Milton would be one of the top options for many teams around the country and should be able to have a solid season even behind Parker.
*Junior Michalee Harris has been sidelined for two years with knee injuries but is on track to make a return. He's practicing and was full go on Sunday for the first time. He wasn't wearing knee braces and looked full strength.
*Quick did run some plays with the first-team on Sunday.
*True freshman Richard Benjamin was switched on Friday from defensive back to wide receiver. The 6-foot, 199-pound Benjamin had 35 catches for 509 yards and five TDs as a senior in high school.
*Senior Jarrett Davis had been receiving some praise for his play in camp and linebacker Preston Brown called him the "fastest player on the team." But Davis was injured and last week tweeted that he had surgery. His status is uncertain.
*Redshirt junior Kai De La Cruz is also back for the Cardinals this season in the receiving group. De La Cruz has changed his name this season. He had previously been known as Kai Dominguez.
*Dontez Byrd of Ballard and George Clements of Willow Spring, N.C., are two walk-ons who have generated some chatter about their athleticism.
*Check back later today for features on senior leader Damian Copeland and a feature on consistent receiver Eli Rogers.
*The position series will continue tomorrow with running backs.