Return to Glory

Return to Glory

Friday, February 24, 2012

Analyzing depth at the Wide Receiver Position

We continue our exploration of the Gophers offense by putting the wide receiving corp under the microscope. Lets start by examining exactly how 2011 played out for our wide receivers. Sadly, you may need a micrscope to examine some of these stats. During 2011 Gopher wide receivers accumulated 1,450 yards while catching 98 balls and 5 TDs. Just for fun, during 2011 All American Oklahoma St. Wide Receiver Justin Blackmon caught121 balls for 1,522 yards and 18 TDs!

Not surprisingly, DaJon McKnight led the way in 2011 with 51 catches for 760 yards and 4 TDs. DaJon accounted for over half of the Gophers 2011 production at the wide receiver position and he has graduated, so there is a large hole to be filled. The only other wide receivers to net double digit receptions were Brandon Green with 15 and Malcolm Moulton with 14. It is clear the passing game struggled in 2011 and I think we can point to a myriad of factors. We have already analyzed the quarterback position and identified that MarQueis is not a polished passer. The receivers are dependent on the quarterback throwing catchable balls, so their success is tied to the quarterback's ability. In defense of MarQueis, I think our wide receivers often lacked the ability to generate separation from Big 10 defenders, which forces MarQueis to throw into tight windows. The good news is that an influx of talented young wide receivers should lead to a brighter future at the position.

Brandon Green: will be a senior wide receiver in 2012 and has seen the field a lot over his first 4 years. He was a highly touted recruit coming out of high school that hasn't quite lived up to expectations, largely due to various nagging injuries. However, he has proven to be a reliable possession receiver with great hands. Brandon started 8 games in 2011. With the lack of experienced wide receivers on the roster, I think it is likely Brandon Green is a regular starter in 2012.

Malcolm Moulton: will be a junior wide receiver in 2012. Malcolm was a new addition to the Gophers in 2011 after coming into the program as a JUCO from Fort Scott Community College. He was considered the #31 JUCO player in the nation and is 5'11" 186 pounds. He provides speed at the wide receiver position but has shown a frustrating pattern of dropping key passes. I think Malcolm will see significant playing time in 2012 thanks to his athletic ability.

Devin Crawford Tufts: will be a sophmore in 2012 after playing in 9 games as a true freshman. He is 6'2" 191 lbs and a true burner that has been clocked at 4.4 seconds in the 40. Devin won the Minnesota Class AA championship in both the 100 and 200 meters and was state runner up in the long jump. As a true freshman, Devin's impact in 2011 was limited, but he made the most of his opportunities and showed that he has the potential to be a deep threat that can help loosen up a defense. Devin averaged 19.5 yards per catch in 2011! I look for Devin to emerge as a dangerous weapon in the passing game in 2012.

Marcus Jones: will be a sophmore in 2012 after playing in the first 7 games as a true freshman. Unfortunately, his season was cut short by a knee injury. The good news is, according to Jerry Kill, Marcus will be ready for spring practice. Marcus is small at 5'8" 170 lbs, but what he lacks in size he makes up for in dynamic speed and athleticism. His talent displayed itself against Purdue in Week 6 when he took a kickoff all the way back for a touchdown, which no Gopher has done since 2007. The injury is the key issue for Marcus, if he proves to be fully recovered from the injury I look for Marcus to get a lot of work out of the slot in 2012.

Isaac Fruechte: is a JUCO member of the 2012 recruiting class and joins the Gophers after spending one season at Rochester Community and Technical College. While at Rochester he caught 29 passes for 788 yards and 8 TDs. He was able to enroll early and will take part in off season conditioning and spring practice. He is 6'3" 202 lbs and will be a sophmore in 2012. By all accounts, I have read Isaac can run under 4.4 in the 40. Clearly, Isaac provides the measurables you look for in a wide receiver and it will be exciting to see how he fares against higher level competition.

Andre McDonald: is a blue chip member of the Gophers 2012 recruiting class. Andre was the #1 prospect in Minnesota and heavily recruited by a host of big time programs. Recruiting guru Tom Lemming ranked him the #12 wide receiver in the nation and #132 overall player. As a senior at Hopkins, he caught 60 balls for 1,253 yards and 17 TDs. He is 6'2" 200 lbs and per scouting reports demonstrates good hands, knows how to effectively position his body and adjusts well while the ball is in the air. The bottom line is Andre is a top flight athlete that possesses the blend of size, speed and strength to be a big time playmaker for the Gophers. He would be a valuable contributor in the red zone where his ability to snag jump balls would be invaluable. The question will be is it worthwhile to redshirt him or whether his talent level is simply to high to afford a redshirt year. My hunch is that his abiliities will be so overwhelming and he will see the field as a true freshman.

Jamel Harbison: is also a blue chip member of the Gophers 2012 recruiting class. Jamel earned a 4 star ranking from ESPN and was rated the #32 wide receiver in the nation. As a senior at Mallard Creek High School in North Carolina, he recorded 50 receptions and scored 21 TDs. He is 5'11" 195 lbs and per scouting reports is an explosive wide receiver with good burst off the line of scrimmage and also displays good hands and a willingness to embrace contact. I envision Jamel spending his career working primarily out of the slot for the Gophers and, much like McDonald, his undeniable talent my force his way onto the field as a true freshman.

Conclusion: The Gophers have struggled greatly in recent years to develop playmakers at the wide receiver position. Eric Decker and DaJon McKnight have been the only high level performers at the position over the past few years. However, I think I see a turning point occurring. Devin Crawford Tufts and Marcus Jones contributed as true freshman and demonstrated dynamic playmaking ability, which should only improve with more familiarity with the offensive system and time spent in the weight room. The three newcomers Fruechte, McDonald and Harbison bring a level of talent to the wide receiver position that I don't believe Gopher fans have seen in years, if not decades. You could possibly argue that the 5 best wide receivers on the team are Devin, Marcus, Isaac, Jamel and Andre which are all sophmores or freshmen. As a result, I think we have a extremely solid foundation established at the wide receiver position. If Philip Nelson proves to be the quarterback many think he is, this wide receiving corp could turn into something truly special.

No comments:

Post a Comment