Top Performer: Mossi Johnson
Something very welcome and very unexpected happened toward the end of spring practice in April. After putting together a very good first two weeks of spring practice, Mossi Johnson was moved to the first-string slot receiver position, pushing long-time starter Devin Fuller, who also had a good spring, to an outside receiver role. We really weren’t expecting that sort of move, given Fuller’s longevity in that role, but Johnson earned it. He had a great spring, and any move that makes him a constant outlet for whichever quarterback wins the starting job is a welcome one.
Most Improved: Alex Van Dyke
Van Dyke had a rough fall camp last year, looking a little too skinny to do everything he needed to do on the field. He played last year, and that probably was a mistake. This spring, though, he got significantly bigger and stronger, looking much stouter through the lower body. After dealing with some drops through the first week, he was much more consistent over the last three weeks, and looks like he should be a significant contributor this season.
We expected the receivers to be one of the most consistent and deep groups on the team, and largely, that’s the way it looked this spring. Jordan Payton looked good, Fuller looked like he regained some of the quickness that mysteriously abandoned him last year, and Thomas Duarte, when he wasn’t nicked up with various minor hamstring issues, looked like his usual self. Even Tyler Scott and Logan Sweet, the much-maligned walkons, looked improved, with Scott especially looking like he developed as a pass catcher this spring.
Kenny Walker and Darren Andrews were both pleasant surprises this spring. Walker has clearly put in a ton of work becoming a more complete receiver, and his hands have improved a good deal (again, the No. 10 who dropped most of the balls in the spring game was Aaron Sharp). Andrews, who has been out for most of the past two years with injuries, looked like the fast receiver we remember from fall of 2013. It’ll be interesting to see if he can make an impact this fall.
Sharp moved from quarterback to receiver early in spring and he had a productive final three weeks. He struggled during the spring game, and his hands aren’t exceptional at this point, but he showed surprising physicality as a receiver, especially for a quarterback. Even though his route-running isn’t polished yet, he showed good body control and the ability to present a nice target to quarterbacks. Developing his route-running and working on his hands should be the big priorities heading into the fall. From a speed perspective, after watching him this spring, we see him more as having that Eldridge Massington deep speed than explosive quickness. He’s all of 6’3 or so and has a filled out lower body, so for now, we think the Y position is a good fit for him.
Jordan Lasley, after he got over his temper issues from the first week of practice, had a good finish to the spring, and punctuated solid play with some spectacular catches. He actually might be prone a little too much to trying for the spectacular play. He had altogether too many attempts at one-handed catches in practice, and, in the words of Eric Yarber, he needs to work on being more of a receiver nerd. If he can improve on being more technically sound, which we expect will happen with Yarber’s tutelage, he will be a big contributor this year and going forward.
Eldridge Massington had a nagging leg injury that kept taking him out of practice, so we didn’t see as much of him as we would have liked. He looked better, and if we had to put money on someone taking over for Payton as that go-to possession receiver next year, we’d probably put it on Massington. Austin Roberts was in a knee brace all spring and didn’t participate in full-contact drills, but he still looked pretty fast, given his size and the brace. He’s all of 230 pounds or so now, but we’d expect him to trim down a little now that he’s able to run at full speed.
Colby Cyburt made the move to tight end this spring to prepare for Chris Clark’s arrival in the fall, and to be honest, Cyburt looked pretty decent there. If someone had told us it wasn’t Colby Cyburt but, I don’t know, his three-star tight end brother Cliff, we wouldn’t have batted an eye. He ran well for being a good 250+ pounds, and showed off some decent hands. Even with Clark coming in and taking the starting spot this fall, we’d expect Cyburt to get some playing time.
Alex Van Dyke
Spring Review: Receivers
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