Preseason Breakdown: Wide Receivers

Our position breakdowns continue with an evaluation of the wide receiver situation heading into week one.

During spring drills, Pat Fitzgerald spoke about his prized former walk-on, Mike Jensen. The senior made some nice grabs in February, but nothing really suggested he would earn one of the starting spots.

Even last week, it still seemed as though Cameron Dickerson would lock down the fourth position. Dickerson can still contribute, but he was somehow outdone by perhaps the best story from Monday's depth chart unveiling.

Jensen will start because he earned it. He hauled in some impressive sideline passes and showed especially good rapport with Trevor Siemian. I'd assume that the Wildcats hope to establish some form of vertical passing attack this season. It helps to have several trusted targets, and Jensen fits the mold.

There were some other surprises from the depth chart release. Pierre Youngblood-Ary (somehow) failed to crack the two-deep despite an excellent training camp. Walk-on Cermak Bland appears to have made an impression with his intense play, and made it.

But really, we look at those top three receivers and consider their lofty potential. Christian Jones dominated throughout camp and should be considered a potential No. 1 receiver—even in this balanced attack. He has the size and ability to match up with just about any Big Ten defensive back. We can expect a major spike in his numbers after his 35-catch season in 2012.

Then, Tony Jones continued to emerge as the versatile receiver look for this team. He can run reverses and use his speed to an immense advantage. After a massive spring, Rashad Lawrence still looks the part of an ideal possession receiver.

I'd expect Dickerson to hold a similar role as he did last season. The redshirt sophomore could serve as an endzone threat with his sure hands in space. After him, Kyle Prater might earn some targets—with the depth chart clogged.

The big worry–or perhaps concession–with these wide receivers is that the targets will be scarce. The zone read and overall run-heavy attack leaves little room for one receiver to have a dominant performance. That's not at all necessary, but the group does much of its work in the blocking game.

After speaking to a number of receivers last season, I left with the impression that they were shockingly unselfish. It speaks well to their character and the program's direction. They're content to win in any way possible.

That being said, they can always look sharper. If the Cats can establish a legit vertical passing attack–and they're set to improve in that department–they have viable receiving options to help them find success.

Depth Chart

Y— Mike Jensen, Cermak Bland
H— Christian Jones, Andrew Scanlan
Z— Rashad Lawrence, Cameron Dickerson
X— Tony Jones, Kyle Prater OR Mike McHugh

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