BF.C Fall Camp Preview: WIDE RECEIVER

CORVALLIS – It's a nice problem to have. A number of highly capable wide receivers including an honors candidate -- it can only lead to heightened competition in fall camp. But we're not waiting for Aug. 6, we're ready to delve in-depth on the Beaver wide receiver corps right now -- with more stats, notes, analyses, opinions and predictions than you can shake a stick at.

Snapshot/Stats:
Jeff Bedbury- (5-10, 190) Sophomore standing- Bedbury suffered a season ending knee injury late in 2010, which resulted in him missing not only the final portion of the season, but the subsequent spring and parts of fall camp. Now considered healthy, Bedbury looks to factor in more on special teams than anything else.

Jordan Bishop- (6-3, 207) Retired

Brandin Cooks- (5-9, 177) Sophomore standing- Played in all 12 games last season for OSU, starting in three of them (filled in at slot temporarily while James Rodgers nursed an injury.) In 2011, acquired 31 receptions totaling 391 yards with a yard-per-catch average of 12.6. Cooks also tallied three touchdowns.

Kevin Cummings- (6-1, 180) Junior standing- Played in 11 games last season, starting one. Cummings registered 10 receptions for 120 yards, a 12.0 yard average and a touchdown.

Kramer Farrell- (5-10, 182) Redshirt Freshman

Obum Gwacham- (6-5, 224) Sophomore standing- Gwacham had a hand in all 12 regular season games in '11. Caught eight passes totaling 147 yards, with an average of 18.4 yards-per-catch. Gwacham did not score a single touchdown last season.

Micah Hatfield- (6-1, 178) Junior standing- Only played in four games last season and did not start. However, Hatfield did score a touchdown despite his minimal numbers ( three receptions, 18 yards, 6.0 yard average)

Richard Mullaney- (6-1, 191) Redshirt freshman

Geno Munoz- (6-0, 195) Retired

Mitch Singler- (6-2, 208) Junior standing- has been relatively quiet since his career started in 2009 (Redshirt '09). Remains a standout member of the scout team but apart from that, Singler has not acquired many noteworthy statistics. Predictions are that Singler will look to make a solid impact on the special teams unit in 2012.

Markus Wheaton- (6-0, 180) Senior- Wheaton has started 20 games throughout his career, including all 12 games last season. Versatile player capable of impacting both receiving and rushing game for OSU. In 2011- amassed a total 25 rush attempts for 190 yards, a 7.6 yard-per-carry average (zero touchdowns). Wheaton caught 73 passes equating to 986 yards and a 13.5 yard-per-catch average in ‘11; scored one touchdown. Total career stats to date are impressive- 63 rush attempts (most of which were short pass plays behind the line, others were reverse plays) for 489 yards, a 7.8 YPC average and three touchdowns. In the pass game, Wheaton has gathered 136 receptions totaling 1750 yards, a 12.9 yard-per-catch average and five touchdowns since 2009.

The Good: The 2012 wideout corps will be the tallest (cumulatively) that Sean Mannion has worked with at OSU, which is a huge benefit considering Mannion stands 6-5. This could translate into a higher rate of completion for Mannion, as the majority of his targets in the pass game will be taller than the guys defending them. And football is a game of inches, both in terms of the turf game and the athletes themselves. Taller wideouts may not be as versatile as having a Rodgers brother back for one more year, but at least Mannion can see them without squinting.

Solid depth at the receiver position never hurt anyone – and it opens up a variety of plays and different offensive schemes designed around the collective skill of the unit.

Two guys to watch will be Cummings and Gwacham. Mike Riley appears to be leaning toward slotting a taller, more lightweight wideout at second string, and may be looking to do the same in the slot. Both Cummings and Gwacham possess impressive speed for their height, and both showed soft hands in the spring. Cummings remained the most consistent wide receiver (with the obvious exception of Wheaton) throughout the spring session – he seemed determined to catch anything thrown his way. Cummings is aggressive too -- something that receivers coach Brent Brennan appreciates. Look for Cummings to make a distinct impact in the passing attack this season, and possible that fans might seem him in the flanker slot.

Gwacham - a sleeper. He didn't see much action last season but when he did, it was with positive result. Tallest wide-out OSU has had in a long while, and one of the tallest in the programs' history. Incredible leaping ability unmatched by any other receiver on the team (current high jump of just over 6-10) and like Cummings, soft hands with a desire to make that big play over the middle. Gwacham has decent vision and impressive speed/ acceleration that one may not initially expect form a guy his size. By far the most obvious target on-field for Mannion, Gwacham is a big-body guy who can move in front of defenders and make that play on the slant or drag with ease. With a little extra work to combat the small discrepancies in his game, he could be explosive.

Wheaton (preseason watch list candidate for the Biletnikoff Award) is a Pac-12 dynamo, a player widely considered to be one of the most versatile and skilled receivers returning to the conference. Wheaton is hoping to get the sour taste of last season's record out of his mouth, and it showed this spring. He is riding a different wave than a lot of the guys making up the corps. His ability as a deep threat is sure to grab the attention of defensive coordinators throughout the conference, and even then he might be able to run by the coverage packages set up to combat his attributes. Presents a good target for Mannion - lighting speed, strong hands and superb defensive recognition. Add it all up and it's sure to translate into points on the board for the Beavs.

Cooks also possesses the skill set to make his mark. Cooks looked sharp in camp, and very quick. He embodies much of what the Rodgers brothers offered to the program, and has a lot of energy. Look for him to play a significant role in the slot. He and Wheaton are also possible candidates for some rigorous special teams play in the way of kick and punt returns.

The Bad: There is no denying that the retirements of seniors Munoz and Bishop will be hard to recover from right off the snap. Both had a lot of talent and a strong rapport with the players and coaches. With their retirement, you lose more than two solid competitors- you lose their collective experience on-field, an invaluable asset.

While the majority of the receivers for OSU look good on paper, game scenarios may prove otherwise. Gwacham has the agility, speed, etc., But he lacks the general consistency one would admire in a starter. His ability to catch the ball left room for improvement, and he dropped a few easy passes from Mannion during spring ball that could be heartbreakers/game changers on third down when the season rolls around. That deficiency started to change toward the end of spring camp, but it leaves analysts and fans alike to wonder if that same inconsistency will reveal itself in clutch situations come fall and the impending football season.

Cooks may have the speed and agility that harkens back to the Rodgers duo, but he showed some issues when it came to running accurate routes in practice. Some may see this as just being aggressive or trying to "make the play happen"- but it is partially due to inexperience and a lack of attentiveness. Cooks also has shown a temper, which may not concern many but it could lead to some dilemmas in the future. A player is only as good as he is focused - maturation won't occur in game if it doesn't occur before the starting whistle is blown. If his decorum improves, so will his game.

When everything is taken into account, Cummings might be Riley's best bet for the first wideout off the bench. The downside is that Cummings is not as quick as others on the roster, and showed some signs of fatigue going into the latter half of many spring practices. Issues such as those could factor into where he sits in the pecking order.

Keep your eyes peeled: For Gwacham and Cummings to be the primary forces that "Duke it out" for the second starting job heading into fall. But Cooks had more experience/catches/yards during the 2011 season than Cummings and Gwacham combined, and is assuredly a bit speedier than either one of them. If Cooks can improve upon his route running and ability to identify the defensive coverage and manipulate it, he can come out of camp as the No.2 easily. Gwacham, however, sure seems to be Riley's top receiver topic of conversation the past several months. Also, Mullaney opened some eyes this spring.

The Question: Mullaney and Hatfield- where do they figure into all this? Both demonstrated impressive possession skills once the ball got to them, and both have average speed. These two seem to be guys that can really surprise a defense -- with a bit more work. The question is, will they receive enough looks during the fall to make an impact once September 1 rolls around?

Intangibles and Final Thoughts: So much of the anticipation surrounding the OSU passing game is directed toward the production of Wheaton (as it should be). Bear in mind that you can only throw to one guy so much during the season before his movements become predictable- and it goes without saying that the hype over Wheaton has resulted in defensive coordinators taking a magnifying glass to his game and by extension, the plays specifically designed around him (of which there are many). Wheaton is a stud on the field though, and that sort of competition is sure to bolster his own aggressiveness. Yet few defensive backs in the Pac-12 are slouches, and most are known for their aggressive play and even more aggressive hits. To build a game plan around one wide out puts him at risk of big hits, and even worse, injury.

Which is why one looks at guys like Cooks, Cummings, and Gwacham and thinks - "What can we use you for?" Gwacham possesses the best overall profile on paper in terms of speed, height and overall athletic ability. But his consistency in catching the ball and running perfect routes left a little to be desired from the sidelines. Gwacham is set on providing for the team though, and proving himself to Beaver Nation. He wants to impact the team on a deeper level this season, and told BF.C that it will be more evident once fall camp gets underway.

Cummings is a smart player not afraid to risk his body to make that big play. He demonstrated near perfect hands during the spring, and seems to be just as reliable as Wheaton when it comes to catching what comes his way. Having a guy that your QB is confident in speaks volumes when it comes to the amount of looks a receiver will garner. Cummings is also strong and more than capable of setting good blocks for the run down field. But he is four inches shorter than Gwacham, and not as diverse in terms of his skill set. He offers consistency to the pass attack though, which is sure to impress the coaching staff.

OSU has not lost much speed in the pass game, despite the fact that the Rodgers brothers have both departed. Both Cooks and Wheaton bring some heat in their cleats, and it will serve the Beavers well in terms of staying dynamic with the screen and short pass plays, staples of an offensive approach under Riley.

Predictions: Overall, this corps of wide receivers should have an exciting season. All show good work ethic and a desire to win.

Wheaton should live up to his hype for the most part. He is looking to have at least a 1,000 yard season, and with a moderately improved quarterback in Mannion, it is highly possible that he will achieve that and more.

Our take: Wheaton hauls in 71 receptions for 1,307 yards, four touchdowns, and something around the tune of about 300 rushing yards.

Cooks: Starting at flanker, he grabs 28 receptions for 405 yards and three touchdowns -- will also factor into the run game to the extent of about 105 yards and a touchdown throughout the season. Look for him on special teams as well.

It's a toss-up for who will get the third starting job in the slot. For the sake of a prediction, let's say that Cummings snags the start late in camp, with Gwacham close behind him vying for a slot position.

Cummings: Will make 32 receptions for 518 yards and two touchdowns.

Gwacham: 26 receptions for 510 yards and three touchdowns.

The rest of the crew: Will likely compile just shy of 400 yards as a reserve unit with five touchdowns shared between them. If OSU is in rhythm this season, look for these guys to make a big impact on special teams.

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