There are a lot of expectations for the Louisville football team as it preps for thh upcoming season. For the team goals - ACC Championship and beyond - to be achieved, then it must also be expected that the rebuilt receiving unit will be able to match or surpass the success of 2014.
That's no small task. To do that, the coaching staff will need to replace Eli Rogers, the team's receptions leader a season ago, along with DeVante Parker, the Miami Dolphins first round choice in the 2015 NFL Draft.
"To replace a DeVante Parker, it takes a group," said U of L receivers coach Lamar Thomas. "It's a group of guys out there having to make plays. That one guy was a very special guy, but I think in time, these guys will develop into their own 'DeVante Parkers', but right now it takes a group and we're getting there."
That group does consist of some promising talent. A pair of transfers, Ja'Quay Savage (Texas A&M) and Jamari Staples (UAB) have great size and each look promising during the spring. However, the pair, along with former Tennessee receiver Alphonso Carte, have been hampered with injuries for much or all of fall camp. Their absence has allowed including freshmen Traveon Samuel, Emonee Spence and Devante Peete an opportunity to improve with the additional reps.
"We have a lot of depth at receiver and they are competing everyday," said Thomas. "That's the most important thing. Competition makes the group better and it makes the team better and I think that's a big part of it."
Thomas explained that his advice to the newcomers is to "buckle up and get ready" and that it has become a "baptism by fire." While they are making a number of impressive catches during practice, there is still the transition to the speed and expectations of the college game is a noticeable adjustment period.
"To make them better they have to be able to expect and understand that you are going to be constructively criticized," Thomas said. "They need accept that and learn from it."
While the absence of the trio has displayed the depth at the position, two are close to returning to action. After missing nearly a week, Savage returned, in a limited role, on Saturday, while Staples is expected back early in the week.
Junior James Quick finished third on the team, behind Rogers and Parker, with 36 receptions for 566 yards and three touchdowns in 2014. The departure of the team's top two receivers, as well as others in last year's group, the role of leadership now falls on the Louisville Trinity product.
"Basically it's one of those things that you have to lead by example," Quick explained. "Make sure that those guys follow you, so you have to go hard every drill and every rep."
Quick has been impressed by the skill of the new look receivers, but realizes that it is still early in camp and that progress is still needed to be made before the season opener against 7th-ranked Auburn.
"We're getting better everyday," said Quick. "We're taking it a step at a time. We're learning more and we're bonding more as a group. We're getting better. Everyday we come out here with a great attitude. The young guys come out and give me as a vet, everything that they have, and I give them everything that I have."
Check out the video for more from Thomas and Quick.