Texas Tech's 2013 receiving corps will certainly be a study in contrasts. On the one hand, the Red Raiders will trot out a behemoth in Jace Amaro, while on the other, mighty mite Jakeem Grant will take the field with him. Tech will have a veteran presence in long-timer Eric Ward, but will also have scads of youth in the form of several true freshmen who could play immediately. There is crazy speed in the form of Grant, but there are also route-running possession types in Jordan Davis and Bradley Marquez.
It is up to Kliff Kingsbury and his offensive staff to make something formidable out of this jumbled lot.
The starters appear to be reasonably well set with Ward, Amaro, Grant and Marquez expected to form a fearsome foursome. Depth, however, is anybody's guess. There's not much experience behind the starters, but there are plenty of bodies, most of them green and raw.
"We have some young guys we're bringing in that we're excited about," says Kingsbury.
"A bunch of the guys we signed in this class we're expecting to play and play right away. Another guy who stood out was Reggie Davis this spring. We think he has a chance to earn some reps. But that'll be one of our deepest groups as far as bodies go. We've got scholarship bodies at wide receiver. And we've got some really good ones, and we'll get them on the field as much as we can so we can feel good about who's coming in for them [the starters]."
One of the rookies is Whitehouse, Texas freshman Dylan Cantrell. He was one of the plums of last year's recruiting class, and the thought was that he could play immediately. Kingsbury confirms that that is the plan.
"He's doing really well according to the strength coaches. He's a workout warrior, always has been. He's about 215 pounds, looks great, runs well, has great hands. We expect him to make an impact, to play, play early."
Among the more known quantities is titanic tight end Amaro. Barring another injury such as the one that felled him last season, Amaro could be a devastating weapon in 2013. And Kingsbury may get a bit creative with that weapon.
"We watched a lot of New England stuff this off season to see what they did with their tight end packages and just to see different things," Kingsbury reveals.
"But he is a unique tight end to be that big and can run like that, so we're gonna try to take advantage as much as we can in that matchup."
At the other end of the size spectrum is Jakeem Grant, along with veteran Jordan Davis and true freshman Carlos Thompson. According to Kingsbury, his offensive system is the perfect environment for miniature receivers to flourish.
"I think so," says Kingsbury when asked whether smaller players tend to succeed in the spread.
"We've got one, Jakeem Grant. Yeah, those guys that can run all day. At the University of Houston we had guys that could run all day and it does play to their advantage because of a smaller type body. The defense may be a little bit tired so you can block ‘em easier and run by them easier. So I think this type of system definitely helps a smaller player."
And then there is the ever-reliable Eric Ward. His Tech career started slowly, but he has quietly put himself in position to leave Lubbock as Tech's most prolific receiver ever. He has also made himself into a solid NFL prospect.
"Yes he does [have an NFL future]," Kingsbury states.
"He could end up the all-time leading receiver at Texas Tech, which is incredible considering the players we've had come through there at that position. So he's very physical, is a great route-runner and I'm excited to see the year ahead."
Aye. It should be an interesting season for Tech's receivers, to say the least. The group is equal parts possible superstars and question marks. But for this unit to reach its potential, depth will have to emerge. That is the key.