Wide receivers: Looking for No. 1

In this PurpleWildcats post-spring position breakdown, Steven Goldstein discusses the receiving corps.

What they're saying

"It's been a great spring for myself, and all the receivers really. We've been working on establishing ourselves as the best in the Big Ten." - Cameron Dickerson

"Our offense has been pretty West Coast, move the chains. Once we get that downfield threat, I feel like we'll be very potent." - Kain Colter

Progress report

It's one of the most improved units on the team, but still lacks a true No. 1 guy. The wideouts stayed busy all spring with downfield routes and shotgun passing plays in 7-on-7 scrimmages. Pat Fitzgerald has stressed the importance of a balanced offense, and with Northwestern's ground prowess already well established, it's up to the passing game to get things going: no Cat topped 500 receiving yards last year or averaged more than 12 yards per catch.

This spring, Rashad Lawrence emerged as a senior leader while Dickerson and Christian Jones looked great in vertical passing plays. Both torched opposing corners in scrimmages and looked pretty physical on deep balls.

Fitzgerald labeled Mike Jensen as the team's offensive MVP for spring, and Tony Jones was just about everywhere in practice. Kyle Prater was withheld from most of the sessions due to injury. Cermak Bland–who looked solid–caught a touchdown pass in Northwestern's spring scrimmage.

What we're thinking

It really could go either way. The wideouts looked great in practice, and coupled with the emergence of Dan Vitale at superback and more emphasis on the screen game, Northwestern could see huge improvements through the air in 2013.

Still, no definitive No. 1 has emerged yet. Lawrence makes the most sense as a senior and a returning starter, but we haven't seen enough from him in the past to really get excited. Lawrence's senior trajectory looks a whole lot more like Demetrius Fields than, say, that of Jeremy Ebert.

Dickerson has playmaker potential, and he knows it. He and Christian Jones stand at an impressive 6-3 and will likely be Northwestern's deep threats this year, while Lawrence would function more as a possession wideout—as he did last season. Fitzgerald continues to rave about Christian Jones' work ethic and natural athleticism.

It's tough to tell if Northwestern's receivers were that good this spring, or if the VanHoose-less secondary still needs more work. And, of course, the success of the passing game will be largely determined by whether Colter or Siemian is under center.

There's no denying that the Cats boast a balanced receiving corps. But rather than seeing four receivers hit 400 yards again, you might like to think that a No. 1 target is here somewhere.

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