Wide Receiver breakdown

Today, in part three of our spring analysis series, we take a look at the wide receiver positions and the progress made during spring training through the eyes of Coach Matt Lubick. Lubick said improvement was made, but more is necessary. Read about it inside.

Editor's Note: In the next few days, we will publish a position-by-position breakdown with each assistant football coach on the recently concluded spring training session. These stories were published in our Grove Bowl issue that was handed out last Saturday. We have updated any depth chart changes since the stories were originally written last week.

After coming into a situation a year ago where he had four senior wideouts to work with, Wide Receivers Coach Matt Lubick is looking at the other end of the experience spectrum for the 2006 campaign.

Mike Espy, Mario Hill, Taye Biddle and Larry Kendrick are all gone of f the 2005 squad. If that news isn't disturbing enough in itself, try this on for size and comfort. Only one returning wideout caught any passes last year – Carlos Suggs. Guess how many he nsagged? A whopping one, for no gain, no less.

With 140 catches last year gone out of the lineup, most coaches would be running for cover. Lubick takes his situation in stride and accepts the challenge.

"The kids we have returning have given me great effort this spring. They have worked hard and are definitely trying to get better," said Lubick. "That is a great starting point. A great attitude will overcome a lot, and they have that.

"They have also shown a vast improvement of their knowledge of what we are trying to do, which is vital to their development."

But Lubick will also be the first to admit there are, stealing a famous poetry line, "miles to go before we sleep."

"It is huge for my guys to take what they have learned in spring and keep working on it on their own in the offseason. They need to run a million routes and catch a million balls, so to speak, between now and August. They need to keep working on the schemes and playbook – the more they know, the more they will play," he stated. "We've come a long way in learning how to run our routes, how to change directions while staying low and getting off press coverage, but to say there isn't more work to be done would be stretching things a lot."

The following is a breakdown of Lubick's current WR depth chart and a few comments on each candidate:

‘X' – Mike Wallace – Sophomore, 6-0, 190 – "Mike has come a long way since the start of spring," Lubick noted. "He's taking advantage of his opportunity and is becoming one of our leaders at wide receiver. Mike gained about 15 pounds in the offseason which has helped him be a more physical wideout, which he needed. He's got excellent speed to be a deep threat and reliable hands. Like all of them, he just needs to keep working and learning."

Keith Houston – Senior, 6-3, 215 – "Keith has played all over the field during his career and played some tight end last year," said Lubs. "He's a big part of our special teams. Keith's a big target and a physical blocker, but there is a lot for him to learn about being out wide. He's shown definite improvement in spring and is putting some pressure on for playing time. I'm anxious to see what he does during the summer to enhance his knowledge and skills, but he's got a chance to help us."

Tyson Andrus – Redshirt freshman, 6-1, 185 – "Wide receiver is all new to him," said Matt. "He's trying hard and picking things up as he goes, but he's still got a lot of room for improvement. He needs time and hard work."

‘Z' – Michael Hicks - Redshirt freshman, 6-3, 215 – "Michael made a couple of big catches in a couple of scrimmages and is starting to show flashes of what we are looking for," Lubs stated. "He's starting to improve rapidly. He's got some physical tools and, like Carlos and Keith, is a big target and physical. Hopefully he will accelerate his learning curve and be ready to roll in August."

Carlos Suggs – Junior, 6-5, 202 – "Carlos had a good spring. He's always been able to get off press coverage pretty good, but now he's getting in and out of his cuts better, which has helped him get some separation from DBs," Lubick assessed. "He's worked really hard on his hands in the offseason and is becoming more reliable in catching the ball, which was a detreiment to him last year with inconsistency. He's also becoming one of the leaders of the group. I like what he has done in the spring."

Kyle Higginbotham – Junior, 6-2, 190 – "Kyle is a tough, talented, try-hard player. He's not quite there yet, but he's got potential to help us," Lubick noted. "Good hands, good routes, he just needs to keep working on his speed and learning the position."

‘H' – Marshay Green – Freshman, 5-10, 170 – "Marshay has excellent speed and quickness and a great attitude," evaluated Lubick. "He plays every play full speed – he has an outstanding motor. The raw skills are there, he just had the longest journey of any of the guys because he's never even practiced on the college level or with us. It's just a matter of time with him because with his speed and his attitude, he'll be good if he's patient and keeps on going like he is now. I would like to see him gain about 10-15 pounds in the offseason. Everything else is right where we want it."

J.D. Lawhorn – Redshirt freshman, 6-1, 90 – "J.D. is playing hard and learning at a good pace, but I'd like to see him get more physical in his play. He's got very good hands and runs good routes. He needs to work on his speed in the offseason to make an impact," Lubick said.

Josh Zettergren – Junior, 6-1, 191 – "Josh is a tough young man who tries hard. He is a pleasure to have on the squad," Matt said.

Lubick said he knew he was jumping the gun a bit, but he couldn't help but be excited about the signees who will be coming in this summer.

"All the guys here now understand there will be some tough competition reporting this summer at their slots," Matt closed. "We are excited about the influx of talent we have coming. They still have to get here and get it done, but I think they can. I already like one thing about them, as a group. They are all inquisitive and have called to ask questions about what they need to be doing to get ready for this summer. They are all going to be here this summer and they are all excited about starting their college careers. It will be interesting when they join us in August for two-a-days."

Our Take: Hopefully, the apprenticeship most of these guys had with last year's quartet, and the incoming talent, will help them be a competitive unit in the fall. It's got to be a little scary about the inexperience factor, but Lubick should be able to mix and match a reasonably productive group this fall. Wallace and Green provide speed and excitement and big play capability. Hicks, Suggs and Houston should be excellent blockers and competent possession receivers. The others have to develop quickly to keep from being overtaken by the likes of incoming frosh Kendrick Lewis, Markeith Summers, Terry Levy, LaDerrick Vaughn and Allen Walker.

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