2001 VU Football Preview- Wide Receivers

This is the second installment of a multi-part series analyzing every facet of the 2001 Vanderbilt Commodores. The series analyzes the personnel, coaching, and intangibles from each functional unit of the team, and will culminate in an overall analysis and prediction.

No.NameHeightWeightClassHometown
1 Anthony Jones6-2172R-Jr.Chattanooga, TN
6 Ryan Cuffee5-11193Jr.Arlington, TX
16Chris Young6-2178So.Batesville, MS
19Markessus House6-4204R-So.Birmingham, AL
21Ronald Hatcher5-10170So.Birmingham, AL
22Everett Robinson5-10184Sr.Hueytown, AL
24M.J. Garrett6-3206Jr.Old Hickory, TN
31Jason Mathenia6-1180Fr.Copperas Cove, TX
35Jerrin Holt6-3210Fr.Grand Prairie, TX
36Jason Shields*6-2223Sr.Slidell, LA
80Brandon Smith6-1178Fr.New Orleans, LA
82Nezih Hasanoglu6-3220Sr.Waukesha, WI
85Dan Stricker6-3201Jr.Cincinnati, OH
86Jason Caldwell6-1185Fr.Hoover, AL
88Keith Williams6-1185Fr.Riverdale, GA
89Tyson Radtke*6-2206Sr.Louisville, KY

* walk-on

The Breakdown

  • 14 scholarship players
  • 6 upperclassmen
  • 8 underclassmen
  • 8 have seen game action at this position
  • Almost 1/3 of our scholarship WR's are from the Birmingham area
Analysis The sheer number of players at this position tell us exactly what the coaches think of this position. With 14 scholarship players reporting this fall (a disproportionate amount when considering 85 scholarship limit) it is obvious that the staff has been searching for big play potential and consistency. Dan Stricker is the only consistent, proven threat in the WR corps, which will allow each 5 of the incoming true freshmen to compete for playing time.

Stricker had a solid freshman season in 1999, but 2000 was truly a breakout season. As a sophomore Stricker was the SEC's third leading pass catcher, piling up 1,003 yards receiving for a solid 16.4 yards per catch. He was most effective working 15 to 20 yards down the field, where Zolman found him to be a reliable target. Despite his lack of true breakaway speed, he was still able to slip behind defenses occasionally for big plays. This is mostly due to his superbly precise route running and technique, which he uses effectively all over the field. Stricker's combination of hands, route running, stature, and intensity easily make him VU's top threat. Stricker's 2000 season undoubtedly caught the attention of secondaries and defensive coordinators, and he will need more help to offset this attention in 2001.

The staff was waiting for someone to step up during the spring in the WR spot opposite Stricker. M.J. Garrett showed flashes in the final game of the season against Tennessee (2 TD's), but has by no means established himself as a dependable threat. Garrett's strengths and weaknesses are similar to those of Stricker, which may be reason enough to place him in a back-up role for an offense searching for big play ability. Garrett is turning into one of the more impressive physical specimens on the team, as he looks to be closer to the 210-215 pound range than the listed 206. Despite Garrett's late season surge, the X-factor at this position remains Anthony Jones. Jones has the athleticism and big play potential the staff is looking for. He is capable of going up for tough catches. Unfortunately, his progress has been slowed first by academic troubles, then by a serious hip injury, and ultimately by inconsistency catching the ball. Jones has recently started wearing contact lenses for the first time, and the coaches hope that this might improve his ability to consistently catch the ball. If he improves his hands, it is likely his spot to lose. Everett Robinson has been a steady performer throughout his career on the practice field, but has been unable to attain significant amounts of playing time throughout each season. He has proven that he is willing to go after the tough catches and that he has solid hands, but to this point it has not appeared that his athleticism has been able to negate his lack of size.

The 2001 offense will continue the pattern set in 2000 with more reliance on a more traditional slot receiver, rather than the TE/WR hybrid, and somewhat nebulous, H-back. That is not to say the H-back has been written out of the offense, it will simply be a more situational position. Chris Young, Ryan Cuffee, Ronald Hatcher, and Nezih Hasonoglu are the top returning players vying for this position. Young has be best combination of athleticism, speed, and accolades for which the coaches are looking. If Young can consistently catch the ball, he will have first shot at the position, but his biggest problem as a freshman was his lack of aggressiveness. Young must be more sure of himself and assertive on the field. As a freshman, he was prone to make tentative cuts and moves with and without the ball. Hatcher is new to the position after spending his freshman season at RB and PR. He has very good hands and excellent moves, and has sufficient ability to beat out Young with a good fall. Hatcher's primary drawback, and our primary drawback at the slot overall, is that he lacks even the size of Young. If Young falters, Hatcher appears to be the most likely candidate to step in. Cuffee is a bit of a mystery at this point coming, who has yet to regain form after undergoing ACL surgery. Cuffee looked excellent during practice as a healthy freshman, but it thus far failed to translate to Saturdays. Hasonoglu will likely continue his role as more of an H-back, making most of his contributions in short yardage and red zone situations. His hands and size are excellent, which can make him a valuable weapon in short yardages. Notwithstanding, he lacks the athleticism to beat matchups with DB's and most SEC OLB's in intermediate and long patterns.

Though most of the production from the WR's position returns from 2000, there will be the opportunity for one of the 5 incoming freshmen to step up. Stricker has his spot nailed down, but a great fall by Holt, Mathenia, Smith, Caldwell, or Williams could win them a spot at the second WR position or in the slot.

Outlook

As with the QB position, there is no reason that the WR's corps should not improve on the 2000 season. Stricker is a star, and out of the 13 other scholarship players at least 2 others should turn up as legitimate threats, if our recruiting has been where it should be. With more of a reliance on a slot WR than the H-back, we should see greater big play potential out of the offense. I predict we will see Stricker hold form, while Jones finally begins to realize his potential. In the slot, I believe that Hatcher will pull even with Young in the fall, and playing time will be split until one establishes himself in game situations.


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