Key Stat: No Tech receiver in nation's top 60 in receiving yards per game. Only two (Eric Ward and Darrin Moore) in top 80.
It was a strange and topsy-turvy season for the Red Raider receiving corps. Darrin Moore actually led the nation in receiving yards after two games but suffered a serious injury on the first play from scrimmage against Nevada and did not return to full health until the final game of the year against Baylor.
Alex Torres and Austin Zouzalik also had their seasons severely disrupted by injury. And Cornelius Douglas and Shawn Corker were converted into cornerbacks.
The 2011 season also saw the emergence of Eric Ward, the appearance of a potential new star in Bradley Marquez, and Adam James turn into a bit of a folk hero.
Amid these unpredictable, storm-tossed seas, Eric Ward was the lone steady beacon of light. He was never a huge threat to break the explosive play (his longest catch was 48 yards), but he consistently found ways to get open, he caught the ball reliably, showed some ability to run with the football, and was a tremendous blocker. Ward looks like a future All Big 12 performer.
Darrin Moore is no speedster—in fact, he's one of the slower receivers on the team—but when healthy has the ability to routinely outmuscle defensive backs for the deep ball. Moore demonstrated this in no uncertain terms before getting injured, and looked dangerous once more against Baylor.
Prior to suffering an injury early in the Missouri game, Alex Torres was having a very good season, and he looked like the same marvelous receiver who took over Michael Crabtree's position as a freshman in 2009. Torres hurt his back in the summer of 2010, however, and was a shadow of his former self as a sophomore. But in 2011 Torres played with his old energy and physicality, and displayed the best hands on the roster.
Most observers expected blue chip recruit Jace Amaro to lock up the tight end position, but senior Adam James upped his game and refused to yield the starting spot. James caught 32 passes and averaged 11.2 yards per catch. Most of James' receptions were in the middle of the field and typically concluded with a thunderous collision. James showed loads of toughness—mental and physical—in his final season as a Red Raider.
Newcomers Marquez and Kennard combined for 37 receptions and 422 receiving yards. Marquez had Tech's first touchdown of the season, and it also proved to be his last. Kennard, meanwhile, averaged 15.2 yards per catch, which was best on the team. Both players have explosive capabilities and will figure prominently in the Red Raider passing attack next season.
Obviously, several Tech receivers had good seasons or showed good promise. As a group, however, the performance was not above reproach. Dropped passes were not a huge problem, but they were a bugaboo that cropped up in a few games and severely short-circuited the offense.
Generally speaking, the receivers ran their routes well, but they were totally blanketed by the Iowa State secondary. And after Moore went down with an injury, Tech's deep passing game dove immediately into the deep freeze. No other receiver showed the ability to be a consistent deep threat.
The receivers blocked well, but on the whole, executed the bubble screen less effectively than any group in recent memory. Then again, it is difficult to block a playthe defense knows is coming, as was frequently the case with the bubble screen in 2011.