Of the skill positions in Paul Johnson’s offense, wide receiver is the one that generally gives incoming signees the best shot at getting onto the field right away. Plenty of receivers in the CPJ era have played (or even started) as true freshmen, including next season’s projected starters, Brad Stewart and Jalen Camp. The Jackets will throw three true freshmen into the mix at receiver this offseason, and with no truly proven options behind Stewart and Camp, the rookies will have every opportunity to work their way onto the field.
The 1-5 scoring system in this series is defined as follows:
- 5: Power-5 Elite
- 4: Power-5 Above Average
- 3: Power-5 Average
- 2: G5
- 1: FCS or lower
A grade of “INC” (incomplete) will be given if the recruit’s film does not provide enough information to make a judgment.
The following tools will be graded for receivers:
Size: Tech’s passing game relies on the receivers being able to go up and win jump balls, which is easier when the receiver is taller and longer and is able to out-muscle the defender.
Speed: This will also encompass acceleration to a degree. Size tends to be more important than speed for Tech’s receivers, but being able to burn past the coverage on a vertical route is a plus in any offense.
Hands: Being able to catch the ball is a somewhat useful skill for a receiver... but on top of that, does he extend his hands to go and get the ball or does he just wait for it to arrive?
Route Running: The biggest key here is how crisply the player changes direction when cutting on a route. Tech’s receivers don’t have complicated route trees, but being able to time and execute the cut on a comeback route can be the difference between a first down and an incomplete pass.
Blocking: Given how much time receivers spend blocking in Tech’s offense, this might be the most important skill. Size definitely helps, but smaller receivers can be effective blockers too.
Hometown: Lawrenceville, GA
Height/Weight: 6-3, 185
Route Running: 3.5
Of the three receiver signees, Carter has the highest ceiling. He has great length for the position and the speed needed to outrun the defense once he has the ball. When he’s in coverage, he uses his length to stretch out and snag the ball out of the defender’s reach; he only waits for the ball to come to him when he’s wide open. His routes aren’t always perfectly crisp, but he does a great job of being in the right position to make the catch, and he shows a special talent for “sluggo” routes (where he turns outside for a couple steps to mimic an out route, then suddenly cuts upfield, turning it into a go route with the goal of catching the defender off guard).
The only thing that isn’t very clear is his blocking ability. His senior film shows a couple plays in which he bullies defensive backs while run blocking, and while he’s effective on both occasions, there simply isn’t enough of a sample to get a good sense of his blocking ability. Beyond that, in terms of athleticism and pass-catching ability, Carter demonstrates everything needed to be a successful receiver for a power-conference team.
The big question for him will be how well he can add weight while maintaining his burst. At a current listed weight of 185, he’ll likely need to add 15-20 pounds before he becomes a regular in Tech’s rotation, and there is a risk that adding muscle will hurt his durability or affect his speed. If he can add the weight and maintain his athleticism, then he has the potential to become a starter before too long. That said, the most likely scenario is that Carter redshirts this fall and joins the rotation in a year or two.
Hometown: Newnan, GA
Height/Weight: 6-3, 210
Route Running: 3
Harris is the biggest of the receiver signees: he’s the same listed height as Carter but carries 25 more pounds on his frame. Almost without question, he projects as a possession receiver. Most of his receiving highlights involve catches that go for fewer than 20 yards because he simply doesn’t have breakaway speed. Size is far and away Harris’s most useful asset in the passing game; he can stretch out and snag passes that are a little high or long, and he can drive through opposing defenders for extra yardage.
There’s something curious about his junior film, though. Roughly half of the reel shows Harris blocking on both run plays and short passes. This is rare, as most receiver recruits stack their film with thrilling receptions and throw in some blocking toward the end for completeness. In Harris’s case, blocking is his best skill, and he goes out of his way to highlight it. His size helps him take on both defensive backs and linebackers, and he already shows an aptitude for some advanced perimeter blocking techniques, such as using his legs to drive the defender back and turning his body to stay between the defender and the ballcarrier.
Harris will need time to develop his receiving skills, but his run blocking ability alone gives him the most direct path to playing time of the three wide receiver signees.
Hometown: Thomasville, GA
Height/Weight: 6-2, 190
Route Running: 4
Thomas was initially slated to line up at safety for Tech, but he asked Paul Johnson if he could instead start out on offense, and the freshman got his wish. He’ll enter the mix at wide receiver this spring after enrolling early.
Fortunately, Thomas’s film features plenty of offensive highlights (both at receiver and at other positions), and he shows plenty of potential. He runs plenty of different routes when he lines up at receiver, and he runs those routes crisply, finding seams in the defense and often putting himself in position to run after the catch. He’s able to stretch out to make the catch when needed, which is another useful skill. Thomas doesn’t have absolutely blazing speed, but he changes direction effectively and is fast enough to outrun defenders when he gets rolling. That should translate into some big-play potential at the collegiate level. In terms of receiving ability, the most accurate comparison on the current roster seems to be Brad Stewart; neither player has game-breaking athleticism or size, but they’re both smart players with enough speed to burn the defense when the opportunity arises.
Much like Carter, the big question mark for Thomas is his blocking ability—there’s almost nothing to go on in his film. Since he bounced between positions on offense (including taking snaps as a wildcat QB) and often had the ball in his hands one way or another, blocking will likely be an area where he’ll need to practice quite a bit. Thomas has the talent to play right away, and he has the advantage of being an early enrollee, but expect him to redshirt while he hits the weight room and works on refining elements of his game.