Spring Football Preview: Receivers

RaiderPower.com takes a look at the Texas Tech receiver situation heading into spring practice.

Many lament the poor play of the receivers last season and rightfully so.

Several guys expected to be major contributors fizzled, nearly every receiver suffered a case of the dropsies at some critical moment and the receiver screen package had to be thrown out due to poor blocking on the perimeter for much of the season.

That being said, I believe the coaching staff and team figured out some things with this group. This is solely my opinion, but I believe the following statements to be true.

First, Devin Lauderdale, who plays the X-receiver position, is the No. 1 receiver on the roster and if used properly could become a star.

The junior college transfer came on strong late last season to finish with 31 catches for 589 yards and seven touchdowns. Most impressively, he averaged 19 yards per catch, the highest yard per catch average by a Red Raider since Kyle Allamon in 1998.

A true home run threat who scored six times from 30-plus yards out (82, 76, 56, 48, 47 and 34), I expect the rising junior to be featured more in the offense beginning this spring.

The second statement made was by Ian Sadler, who became a reliable target last fall for quarterback and fellow true freshman Patrick Mahomes.

Sadler could go a long way toward locking up a starting spot at Y with a strong spring. He finished with 2014 with 23 grabs for 336 yards and two scores. He'll have some competition in the fall from a talented group of freshmen receivers coming in, but that's a ways away.

What also became clear last season is Jakeem Grant, who plays the H-receiver position, or in the slot, is a very good complimentary player, another explosive player in Texas Tech's arsenal, but not a go-to receiver, especially on slants across the middle. Several third and medium or third and short situations were not converted due to either drops by Grant or defenders simply beating him to the ball.

Jakeem Grant

The rising senior still put up very good numbers last season with 67 receptions for 938 yards and seven touchdowns, but he must be used in a different manner moving forward; less slants over the middle, no more end zone fades to the 5-foot-7, 167-pound receiver.

I expect Kingsbury to go back to getting Grant the ball in space on screens, crossing routes and perhaps jet sweeps where he can use his elite speed and quickness more to his advantage.

Lastly, I believe the coaches, or at least Mahomes figured out you will sometimes have to throw Dylan Cantrell open. He may not always get a lot of separation from coverage, but at 6-foot-3, 217 pounds, he has shown a knack for making difficult catches on jump balls when given the opportunity.

Others in the mix this spring include rising sophomore Cameron Batson, who served as the primary punt returner last season, but was used sparingly at receiver. Brad Pearson was another receiver who showed flashes in the fall, primarily in the slot and could be a guy who could emerge this spring. Jakari Dillard (6-4, 185) redshirted last season, but could be a big target in the red zone.

If anybody on the roster needs a big spring to win back the confidence of the coaching staff, not to mention his own, it's Reginald Davis. Davis opened last season as a starter outside and as one of the primary kick returners. By the end of the season he had lost both positions.

Davis finished with 28 catches for 319 yards and five scores. The talent is there, but he needs to come on.

Predicted starters: H-Jakeem Grant, X-Devin Lauderdale, Y-Ian Sadler, Z-Dylan Cantrell.

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