After taking a close look at the 2008 Aggie offensive line and tight ends, it's a bit of a relief to turn our attention toward a position where this fall's Texas A&M offense will return some experienced talent. While it's true that the Aggies will miss the likes of Earvin Taylor and the super-speedy Kerry Franks, the 2008 wide receiver unit has some experience coming back, and will hopefully be more productive in the new offensive system under Mike Sherman.
Without question, any discussion of this fall's wide receivers has to begin with Pierre Brown. The 6-foot-2, 197-pound senior will be counted on this season to stretch defenses to their limit. Brown has 14 career starts during his tenure at A&M, including 10 during the 2007 campaign. Last season, Brown grabbed 19 receptions for 217 yards, averaging 11.4 yards per catch. For his career, Brown has caught 39 passes for 419 total yards, an average of 10.7 yards per reception.
While Pierre Brown will be testing opposing defenses deep this season, the return of senior Howard Morrow gives the Aggies a talented possession-type receiving threat to fill the role vacated by Earvin Taylor. The 6-foot, 206-pound Morrow missed all of the 2007 season after suffering a wrist injury during fall camp last year, but had seen action in 23 games during the 2005 and 2006 seasons. The Aggies will certainly be hoping Morrow can maintain his average of 13.5 yards per catch this fall, after having been out of action for so long due to his injury. Last summer, Morrow had looked to be the receiver most likely to have a "breakout" season, but those expectations were dashed the moment he hurt his wrist.
Expect to see immediate playing time from 6-foot-4, 209-pound true freshman Jeffrey Fuller as well. With his huge frame, impressive strength, speed and terrific route-running ability, Fuller is a terrific possession-type receiver who will prove incredibly difficult to cover, and will be a force coming across the middle. As the season progresses, expect to see more and more from the freshman Jeff Fuller, who had a good spring workout as an early signee this year as well.
The 2008 Aggie receiving corps will feature another speed-demon in Junior E.J. Shankle, who is easily one of the fastest players on the team. Although Shankle's most impressive accomplishments thus far in his career have come as a kick returner (including the 42-yard return against the Longhorns last November that set up a touchdown drive by the Aggie offense), Shankle could become the perfect complement to Pierre Brown on the other side of the field, giving the Aggie offense two lightning-fast deep threats. If E.J. is to realize that potential, however, he will have show some "stickier" hands, as his career to this point has been plagued by too many drops.
Sophomore Terrence McCoy returns for the Aggies as well, both of whom notched TD catches for the Aggies last year as freshmen. McCoy got onto the field in 11 games last year, but caught only one pass, although he made the most of his one reception, as it was a 17-yard TD catch in the season opener against Montana St.
Sophomores Cody Beyer and Chris Caflisch will also return this fall, along with junior Antonio Perry, and while it's unlikely any of three will see significant playing time, they are capable backups that can give the starters a play off here and there.
Missing from the roster this season will be Roger Holland, who saw action in 12 games last year, catching four passes for 52 yards. He had an incredible spring practice before suffering a concussion that will force him from the lineup this fall. His absence may be the biggest loss heading into this season as it appeared he was going to be the No. 1 receiver for Sherman and Co.
Overall, this year's receiving corps will almost certainly be underestimated by the media and opposing defenses–at least during the early part of the season. But they'll have something to prove in Coach Sherman's new pro-style offense, which may help them in 2008, if for no other reason, than just having better routes to run.
With a few veterans, and at least one seriously talented newcomer, the 2008 Aggie wide receivers certainly have their fare share of questions heading into the year, but with the new offense, they should have an opportunity to shine this fall, and may prove to be the perfect complement to the Aggies stable of running backs when it comes to keeping opposing defenses guessing.
Aggie Websider Grade: C+
COUNTDOWN 2008 - Wide Receivers
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