A Look at Wide Receivers

Rakeem Cato exploded onto the scene at Marshall University last season in a big way. By the time the season was over, he had accumulated monster passing stats. He ended the year on multiple all CUSA teams, and rated high on many of the season passing statistic lists. He was able to accomplish this due to having a plethora of talented wide receivers in which to throw the ball.

Cato ended the season completing 406 of his 584 passes. He accumulated 4,201 passing yards without the benefit of extra games due to the team finishing a disappointing 5 – 7. He tallied 37 touchdowns against only 11 interceptions. He completed passes to 19 different players. He will be losing three seniors who accounted for 134 catches, 1,511 yards, and 12 touchdowns. Clearly, replacements for those three, Aaron Dobson, Antavious Wilson, and Andre Snipes-Booker, will be needed. Reinforcements are in line. Let's take a look.

First of all, Cato's leading receiver and former high school teammate Tommy Shuler returns for his junior season. Shuler came on strong last season and never let up, ending the season with 110 catches, for 1,138 yards and 6 touchdowns. Shuler seemed to always find ways to get open for first downs and big catches.

The following receivers also return:

Demetrius Evans – 32 catches, 284 yards, and 2 Touchdowns

Jazz King – 15 catches, 151 yards, and 2 Touchdowns

Craig Wilkins – 14 catches, 122 yards, and 1 Touchdown

Davonte Allen – 12 catches, 190 yards, 2 Touchdowns

Jermaine Kelson – 7 catches, 69yards

In addition to the aforementioned receivers, there are three more who were on campus last season that should contribute this year. Redshirt sophomore DeAndre Reaves, and redshirt freshman Chris Alston Jr, should add depth at the inside receiver spot. Alston Jr, was making a push to have his redshirt removed prior to the opening of last season, right up until the end. Marshall also welcomes in two senior transfers from Penn State. Lighting fast Devon Smith, and tall outside receiver Shawney Kersey, both should play a big roll. Smith is small, listed at 5'7", but very fast. Kersey is bigger, at 6'1", and 198 pounds. Kersey caught 6 passes for 44 yards in the first two games last year before leaving the team. Walk on Jack Gammon, from Columbus, and Dameon Garrett round out the wide outs.

Marshall's coaching staff hit the recruiting trail for wide receivers this past season as well, and in doing so was able to land some talent which could step in and play sooner rather than later.

Angelo Jean- Louis – Big time, four star wide out from Fork Union Military Academy

Deontay McManus – Another highly regarded three star, former four star, wide out from The Atlanta Sports Academy

Josh Knight – 6'1", 180 pound wide receiver from Fort Pierce Central High School in Florida

Justin Hunt – 6'3", 180 pound outside receiver from Memphis, Tennessee.

When eligible, Jean Louis, and McManus will be the real deal and will step in and play right away. Knight and Hunt bring some size to a position whole top three returning players are smaller.

Justin Hunt committed to Marshall, and never publically waivered from his commitment. I caught up with Hunt recently for an interview to get his thoughts on the recruiting process and see if he was always strong with the Herd staff.

I asked Hunt if he was excited to get to Huntington and get started on his playing career. Hunt said, "Oh yes, very excited. One of my personal goals is to get up there and win Conference USA Freshman of the Year. I believe the coaching staff expects me to come in and play when I get there. I am ready too. I have been getting stronger, faster and bigger."

One of Hunt's recruiters while he was at Marshall was former defensive backs coach, Lytrel Pollard. Pollard left the Herd prior to signing day to take a job at his alma mater, Southern Mississippi. Knowing that Pollard was one of those recruiting Hunt, I asked him how the last couple weeks of recruiting went and if he ever heard from Southern Miss. He said, "the last two weeks were good, because I already knew where I was going. USM never offered, but they were talking to me really hard."

Hunt will not be playing for wide receiver coach Gerard Parker, who left for Purdue, however he will be playing for the newest member of the Marshall staff, Mike Furrey. Furrey, was recently the head football coach at Kentucky Christian University, prior to becoming the wide receivers coach at Marshall. Furrey had an excellent career in the NFL and actually led the NFC in receptions in 2006 with 98.

I asked Hunt what he thought about playing for a former NFL receiver such as Furrey. Hunt was excited, and said, "I am very excited to be coached by a former NFL Player. He knows what it takes to get to the next level, and he can help me with that as well."

Hunt expects to arrive on campus in early June. He keeps in touch with fellow 2013 recruit, and early enrollee, quarterback Kevin Anderson from Boca Raton, Florida.

Hunt reminds me of a taller version of former receiver Bryant Milligan. Milligan was a Mark Snyder recruit who was coached by Ted Ginn in High School. Milligan was shorter, but both receivers are solidly built and appear ready to play as soon as they walk on campus.

I would expect a good fight this spring at the wide receiver position. Shuler is the only sure fire starter. The rest of the unit will be talented, just unsure of which ones will step up. The early predictions would be that Wilkins, Kersey and Smith would be in the mix. All three will be participating in spring drills later this month.

Stay tuned to Herdhaven.com for further updates.

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