Receivers Catching On

Unlike last fall when the Green Wave lost its top three receivers, Coach Bob Toledo has five viable options at wide receiver. Tulane has the fortune of having its top two pass catchers back, but must replace tight end Gabe Ratcliff. However, this group of receivers seems to have good depth and conventional wisdom is that they should only get better as they continue to mature.

The key to this groups success may hinge on the continued progress of Jeremy Williams (6-1, 203, Jr.). After using his redshirt in 2005, Williams had 40 receptions for 484 yards (12.1) and 2 touchdowns to earn freshman all-american honors from The Sporting News. Williams' sophomore season got off to a rocky start and he landed in Coach Toledo's doghouse; however, Williams was able to climb back into his coach's good graces and finished the year strong. He finished 2007 as Tulane's leading receiver with 46 receptions for 773 yards (16.3 yards per reception) and 5 touchdowns. Williams had the best game of his career late in the season against UTEP when he recorded 8 catches for 188 yards and 2 touchdowns. He looks poised for a breakout season with a strong showing this spring. Williams opened the spring game with a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. He also caught 2 passes for 50 yards, including a 34-yard touchdown pass from Joe Kemp.

Starting opposite Williams at split end is the elder statesman of the group, Brian King (6-1, 190, Sr.). King has more experience than any other wide receiver on the roster, seeing action in 35 games with 12 career starts (tying Williams). King's progress has been slow but steady since joining the Green Wave. As a true freshman, in 2005, he recorded 15 receptions for 189 yards (12.6 yards per reception) and one touchdown. In 2006, he had 16 catches for 272 yards (17.0 yards per reception) and 3 touchdowns. Last season King was Tulane's second leading receiver with 30 receptions for 446 yards (14.9 yards per reception) and 2 touchdowns. King's best performance of 2007 came against Tulsa when he hauled in 4 passes for 91 yards and one touchdown.

Chris Dunn (6-2, 213, Jr.) and Michael Batiste (6-3,190, Sr.) are listed as number 2 on the depth chart at split end and flanker respectively. With even modest improvement, both could significantly impact Tulane's passing offense. Batiste has two career starts and has appeared in 26 games. In 2007, he had 13 receptions for 215 yards, averaging 16.5 yards per reception. Dunn's production slipped in 2007 after making 15 receptions for 189 yards as a freshman. Last fall he had 4 receptions for 36 yards and one touchdown. Dunn has 3 career starts and has appeared in 23 games for the Green Wave.

Probably the biggest surprise entering the fall is that Casey Robottom (5-11, 183, So.) is not listed on Tulane's two-deep depth chart. As a redshirt freshman, Robottom appeared in 12 games, starting seven. He recorded 11 receptions for 182 yards, averaging 16.5 yards per reception. Robottom had a good spring and lead all receivers in the spring game with 71 yards on two receptions, including a 63 yarder to set up a touchdown.

Several unproven players round out the wide receiver position: redshirt freshmen Chandler Davis (6-2, 177), Taylor Echols (6-2, 175), Charles Gaspard (6-1, 175), and redshirt sophomore Alan Mitchell (6-3, 162). Davis probably has the best chance of the quartet to contribute this fall. Davis had 72 receptions for 1,097 yards and 18 touchdowns during his final two years at Gulf Shores HS, despite seeing significant time at safety his senior year.

Senior Justin Kessler (6-4, 260) and sophomore Tyler Helm (6-5, 238) will probably continue to battle for the starting tight end position this fall. Currently Kessler is listed ahead of Helm, but that is not set in stone. Kessler has the edge on experience, seeing action in 34 games with 3 career starts. He is also probably a little stronger blocker. Helm saw action in 10 games last season as a true freshman, starting four. Neither player will be mistaken for Rodney Holman in the passing game. Last season Kessler had one reception for 7 yards while Helm made 3 catches for 18 yards.

Redshirt freshman Antoine Duplessis (6-3, 245) had a good spring and appears ready to contribute. Rounding out the tight end position is true freshman Troy Wainwright (6-3, 230), an intriguing prospect who could play early, especially in passing situations. As a senior, Wainwright saw limited action on offense, playing defensive end primarily. However, as a junior, he proved to be a dangerous pass-catching tight end recording 42 receptions for 642 (15.3 yards per reception) and 11 touchdowns at Barbe HS.

Expect improved production from the wide receiver positions in 2008 given the excellent depth and continued maturation of the group as a whole. The tight end position has been underutilized in recent years in the passing game, so similar production could be expected this fall.

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