Looking ahead: WRs

Rutgers has talent at the receiver position, but more is needed than filling the void of leading receiver Tim Brown, who had 55 catches for 1,150 yards and nine touchdowns as a senior. Mohamed Sanu is a given and Mark Harrison has shown glimpses of being able to be a regular contributor, but beyond that the Scarlet Knights have loads of questions. How will it shake out?

Tim Brown made 55 catches, Mohamed Sanu made 51 and the rest of Rutgers' receiving corps had an underwhelming 13 receptions.

Brown is hopeful of plying his trade in the NFL next season, which means Sanu becomes the leader of a youthful, inexperienced receiving unit. It has talent, but unproven talent.

So, in the spring and throughout training camp, expect a ton of attention to be on the receivers as the Scarlet Knights look to replace Brown and develop depth, which was missing in 2009.

And if losing Brown's production, leadership and experience isn't enough, his speed also needs to be replaced.

Brown's biggest of his many assets was his speed. It enabled the Scarlet Knights to stretch defenses vertically, forced defenses to alter their coverage and allowed Sanu markedly more room to run routes.

That speed doesn't exist anywhere else on the roster, which is why the commitment of New Jersey's fastest football player, Egg Harbor Township's Tejay Johnson was so pivotal. It is also why coach Greg Schiano took a helicopter to see Johnson play in November.

Johnson won the 100 meters in the Meet of Championships with a time of 10.67 seconds.

The need for speed is something Rutgers is using on Manatee High (Bradenton, Fla.) receiver Ace Sanders, who holds an offer from Rutgers.

Sanders said he is interested in the Scarlet Knights, and is trying to re-arrange his schedule to set up a visit, but the Scarlet Knights also have to battle with South Florida, West Virginia and South Carolina, and possibly Iowa State, for Sanders' services.

Another speed option is Fort Pierce Central receiver Tim Smith, who was set to commit to Rutgers last month but was encouraged to hold off while an academic issue was sorted out. If Sanders doesn't pick Rutgers, Smith could be the person to fill the speed role.

When it comes to the returning players, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Sanu, who had three touchdown catches and 639 receiving yards, is the big target quarterback Tom Savage can find easily. But he will need help, and there are plenty of bodies to choose from.

Sophomore-to-be Mark Harrison drew early comparisons to former Rutgers standout Kenny Britt, but the 6-3, 230-pound Harrison was slowed early in the season by a groin injury and late by a concussion, curtailing is development on both ends.

The offseason is ultra-important for Harrison, who has big hands and a long stride, but will be needed to make the jump to a dependable second option for Savage. Harrison made five catches for 83 yards and a touchdown, but he wasn't a factor the last month of the season.

From there, let the jockeying begin.

Julian Hayes will be a fifth-year senior, and had six catches for 65 yards to go with too many drops in 2009.

Freshman Quron Pratt had one catch for 14 yards, but an ankle injury ended his season early. He is eligible to red-shirt and retain his four years of eligibility, and should be in the mix with red-shirt sophomore Keith Stroud (1 catch, 12 yards), red-shirt sophomores Marcus Cooper, Tim Wright and Eddie Poole and red-shirt freshman Aaron Hayward.

Of course, Hayward is the most intriguing of those players. The rest had a chance to make a dent in the rotation last season, but none came away with a catch.

The Scarlet Knights already have commitments from Piscataway (N.J.) High receiver Jawaun Wynn and Endicott-Union's (Endicott, N.Y.) Jordan Thomas. But Thomas was a running back in high school, and could take a year to learn the receiver position.

Rutgers is also the favored school of four-star recruit Brandon Coleman of Bishop McNamara of Forestville, Md. The 6-6 Coleman would give Rutgers the type of red-zone fade-pattern threat it lacks.

Hayward was one of New Jersey's top rushers as a senior at Penns Grove High (Carney's Point), but came to Rutgers as a receiver. He spent the 2009 season red-shirting to learn the position.

Another potential factor in the receiving picture is red-shirt junior Mason Robinson, who is recovering from reconstructive knee surgery. Robinson made the move from running back to receiver last offseason, but it remains to be decided whether he will stay there.

There is talent at the receiver position, but whether enough of the young players are ready to play a significant role will go a long way in the success of the 2010 offense.


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