Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Spring position breakdowns: WRs
By Ted Miller
Our look at position groups in the Pac-12 continues.
Arizona: Arizona might end up with the Pac-12's best crew of receivers, which is saying a lot because this is a strong position in the conference heading into 2014. Not only do six of the top seven wideouts from 2013 return, the Wildcats also get Austin Hill, an All-American candidate, back from a knee injury. Further, they will get the services of Notre Dame transfer DaVonte' Neal and Texas transfer Cayleb Jones. Both have looked good in practices while sitting out last year.
Jaelen Strong caught 75 passes for 1,122 yards as a sophomore.
Arizona State: The big returning name is Jaelen Strong, who could become an All-American candidate. Richard Smith, who caught 32 passes last year, is also back. A lot is expected from juco transfer Eric Lauderdale, who will participate in spring practices. It will be interesting to see what role Kyle Middlebrooks, a running back/receiver who redshirted last year because of a knee injury, will have. There should also be some opportunities for redshirt and true freshmen to work themselves into the rotation.
California: While the Bears have a lot of positions of concern, receiver is not one of them. The top four wideouts from last season all return. Bryce Treggs and Chris Harper each caught 70 passes or more last year, and Kenny Lawler and Darius Powe are talented.
Colorado: The Buffaloes won't be able to replace Paul Richardson's production with one guy. His 1,343 receiving yards in 2013 and 21 career TD receptions pretty much made him the Buffs' entire passing offense in 2013. Still, the next three leading receivers from 2013 are back in Nelson Spruce (650 yards), D.D. Goodson (306 yards) and Tyler McCulloch (138 yards). In this story, quarterback Sefo Liufau said he expects true sophomore Devin Ross, who caught six passes a year ago, and redshirt freshman Brice Bobo to step up.
Oregon: Bralon Addison, who caught 61 passes for 890 yards with seven TDs last season, will step into the void left by Josh Huff. Keanon Lowe is a solid No. 2. Things are wide-open thereafter which makes it a good opportunity for young players to step up.
Oregon State: You don't simply replace a guy like Brandin Cooks, who was the best receiver in the country last year and just blew things out at the NFL combine. He's probably the best receiver in school history. Richard Mullaney caught 52 passes for 788 yards in 2013, but after that, things are pretty unknown. Athletic but underachieving Obum Gwacham is going to give defense a try. Next in line are probably Victor Bolden and Malik Gilmore, a pair of sophomores who combined for 13 receptions last year. The good news for the passing game is that the Beavers have a deep crew of capable tight ends.
With Ty Montgomery coming back, Stanford has a solid group of returning receivers.
Stanford: The Cardinal basically welcome back their entire corps of receivers, led by All-Pac-12 candidate Ty Montgomery, who caught 61 passes for 958 yards and 10 TDs last year. There's also Devon Cajuste (28 catches, 642 yards, five TDs) and Michael Rector, who averaged 30.8 yards a catch last year, meaning it only required 14 grabs to pile up 431 yards. Stanford feels good enough about its receiver rotation that it moved the capable Kodi Whitfield to safety. Also, look out for Francis Owusu to be a factor.
USC: Marqise Lee is gone, but junior Nelson Agholor was a more productive receiver in 2013, catching 56 passes for 918 yards -- 16.1 yards per catch -- with six touchdowns. After him, though, things are unclear, though there's plenty of athletic ability. Sophomore Darreus Rogers caught 22 passes last year. The big question? Are former top recruits George Farmer or Victor Blackwell ever going to show up?
Utah: The underrated Dres Anderson is back. He caught 53 passes for 1,002 yards -- 18.9 yards per catch -- with seven TDs last season, and that total is even more notable when you recall that his top running mate, Kenneth Scott, suffered a season-ending ankle injury in the 2013 opener against Utah State. Scott caught 32 passes in 2012 and was expected to break out as a junior in 2013. Expect juco transfer Kaelin Clay to work his way into the mix quickly.
Washington: This should be a position of strength for the Huskies, but there are some questions this spring. First off, the Huskies are hopeful that Kasen Williams will return 100 percent healthy after breaking his fibula and damaging foot ligaments on Oct. 26 against California. Second, there is the status of Damore'ea Stringfellow, a big-time talent who is currently suspended along with Cyler Miles, the front-runner to start at QB. Those are two big questions for the passing game. Still, the Huskies are deep and talented at the position. Jaydon Mickens, who led the team with 65 catches for 688 yards with five TDs in 2013, and John Ross, who has outstanding speed, also are guys to watch.
Washington State: Not unlike their friends on the west side of the state, the Cougars have a deep, experienced and talented crew of receivers, but there also is a question because of off-field issues. The Cougs are set to welcome back their top four and nine of their top 10 pass catchers from 2013, but leading receiver Gabe Marksgot into a bit of off-field trouble, so we have to wait and see what his status is. Still, Kristoff Williams, River Cracraft and Dom Williams front a group that should be among the Pac-12's best units.