Countdown to Kickoff: 26 Days...
Jeff Greene (transferred to Ohio State), Chris Jackson (graduated), Jeremy Moore (left team)
Depth Chart Speculation
|Position||First String||Second String||Third String|
|WR1||Darren Waller (Jr)||Ricky Jeune (Fr)||Corey Dennis (R-Jr)|
|WR2||Travin Henry (R-Fr)||Michael Summers (R-Fr)||DeAndre Smelter (Jr)|
If you're the type of person who's good at seeing patterns, and you regularly read about what Nate has to say, you've probably got a good idea of how he feels about this situation. You probably also know all about my undying optimism, and have a feeling about how this article's about to go...and you'd be right. I'm going to spin this in a way that is a little more confidence-inspiring.
We're all well-aware of the lack of experience we're going to experience at wide receiver. For those keeping score at home, we return 8 out of 41 WR receptions we had last year, good for about 19.5%. (Note that this does not include A-Backs, B-Backs, or Offensive Tackles who recorded receptions.) That's the bad news. The other bad news is that we would have returned a whopping 11 of 41 if we hadn't lost Anthony Autry to multiple ACL injuries. Basically, the only returner is Darren Waller.
That said, Waller is talented. He's about 6'5", 230lbs, which is right around the size of another guy we had on the Flats not too long ago. Waller is long, athletic, and speedy. The only problem is that I've not made a single comment about how well he catches the ball, because the jury is still out on that. However, you may remember that during Stephen Hill's sophomore campaign, he only recorded 15 receptions for 291 yards (as the team's #1 receiver, mind you), and dropped about as many passes as he hauled in. Then, Hill's junior campaign saw him more than double his production as he jumped up to 28 receptions for 820 yards. Might this year be Darren Waller's breakout season?
Even if it is, he won't be able to do it himself. Based on insider reports and player histories, I expect the #2 target to be Travin Henry. Reports say that Henry's doing a great job in camp, and I expect him to be the other starter at WR. Other contenders who I expect to see good time on the field are redshirt freshman Michael Summers and freshman Ricky Jeune. Summers might be in close competition with Henry come the start of the season, and offers a slightly different skillset from Henry and Waller. He looks to be more of a slot receiver type than a #1-type option, but that could turn into a dangerous weapon for Vad Lee and Justin Thomas.
Other contenders here will be redshirt junior Corey Dennis, freshman Antonio Messick, and newcomer DeAndre Smelter. Dennis in particular hasn't ever found a niche with this team, playing on special teams, lining up at safety, and moving to wide receiver. I have no doubt that he's a fairly talented kid, I'm just not convinced based on recent history that he'll ever be an impact player at Tech. Messick and Jeune will be the two freshman contenders to play, and I only expect one to play. Based on what I've seen from them in film, it'll be Jeune, but I'd hardly count Messick out. Finally, Smelter joins the football team after two years as a pitcher for the baseball team. He was a highly-recruited receiver out of high school before deciding on baseball, but may have trouble adjusting into the college game. That said, he's participated in 7-on-7 drills all summer to familiarize himself with the quarterbacks and to get back into the swing of running routes.
A lot of Tech fans are worried by the vast unknown and unproven abilities of this group. However, I'd contend that we should give it a few games before we pass judgement. It's natural to feel uneasy about what we don't know, but at the same time we don't have any reason to worry at this point. We've got one guy who's been improving since he got to school, is athletic and tough to cover, and then we have guys that we were excited to recruit. Let's give it some time before making decisions on how this fall is going to end up.
Tired of my optimism yet? Are you still in full-on panic mode? How does DeAndre Smelter contribute this fall? How much will Darren Waller stand out this year?