Alex Kenney, WR (6-foot, 192 pounds)
In the off-season, Kenney continued to make strides in the slot receiver position after moving over from cornerback prior to the TicketCity.com Bowl. Though Devon Smith projected as the starter, many felt Kenney was poised to eat into his playing time. The point became moot when Smith was dismissed from the team.
Kenney only saw action in two games last year (on defense and special teams) and was hampered by a knee injury this past spring. Despite this, the redshirt sophomore has shown improvement with his routes, which "increases the effectiveness of his speed against defenders."
Overall the staff is looking to Kenney to add a key dimension to the passing game in terms of "quick, explosive" patterns.
Speed: This is widely considered to be his best asset, Kenney has consistently been among the fastest players on the squad. "He's a strong, fluid runner," and many point to his ability to "control his speed." This was a major factor leading to his progress in the off-season. Where Smith often struggled when it came to picking up yards after the catch, often stumbling over his own feet or running into tacklers, Kenney's more controlled style make him more dangerous from a YAC perspective. He had several long catch-and-run plays during training camp. More on this a little later.
Routes: He has the ability to run relatively "crisp" routes. Despite his progress, he continues to work on this to "nail the correct yardage." As one observer said, "This is critical to timing patterns and especially when running a short route." Kenney has had slip ups here and there, but overall has been strong with his route-running.
Hands: He has shown a propensity to pull in the ball well. He's been focused on protecting it "with defenders on his hip," but has made strides in this regard. Kenney has also worked with position coach Stan Hixon on his patience. According to one observer, "Sometimes he just wants to take off, but you can't do it without the ball. So, he just has to wait until he has it tucked before (he runs)."
Technique: Overall, Kenney is said to have good technique with his play. "When he's patient he looks the ball in and tends to be aware of the coverage." As another observer said, "He has the abilities to get good yards after the catch."
Impact: With depleted wideout depth, Kenney's performance will be especially important this season. The staff is looking at him to add a unique dimension to the offense as someone who can beat opponents underneath and take off or line up wide for deep shots. Assuming he stays healthy, he seems to be on his way to making a significant impact this season. He may also figure prominently into the return game.
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