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KU receivers offer mixed bag of talent, experience; but which will shine brightest in 2010?
Kansas University football coach Turner Gill, on Monday, made no secret about the way he feels about his wide receivers.
“We have a solid receiving corps, I can say that,” Gill told the media during KU’s annual media day at the Anderson Family Strength and Conditioning Center.
From there, Gill went on to name names and, initially, I thought he might give us a glimpse at the two or three guys who had stood out the most at the position during his 20 or so practices with the team.
First mentioned was senior Johnathan Wilson. Then came junior Daymond Patterson, followed by sophomore Bradley McDougald. Finally, I thought to myself, we’re going to start getting some info about which players have taken the lead during training camp battles.
But then came Chris Omigie’s name and the names Erick McGriff and Christian Matthews followed. By the time Gill was finished — slot receiver D.J. Beshears was the last wideout he mentioned by name — Gill had listed off enough receivers to make up a couple of solid receiving units.
When I asked him how he might go about fitting that many players into some kind of a rotation, Gill said the coaching staff was still evaluating that and that, like most other positions, this group of guys would continue to battle it out on the practice field, with the most consistent guys — not necessarily the most talented — gaining the lion’s share of the reps this fall.
Though he’s been here just a short time, that, we’ve learned, is the Turner Gill way — everybody competes and consistency pays. Not a bad way to run a program, if you ask me.
But what if a position like wide receiver pops up and you’ve got six or seven guys who deserve to be on the field when the balls are flying on Saturdays? What happens then?
I’m sure Gill will figure that out in time. But I thought I’d take a crack at it before he does.
This is just a hunch, but I’d bet, with all things being equal, Gill will reward the older players first. Seniority and loyalty seem to mean a great deal to him. The other thing that means a great deal? Winning ballgames. So, seniority aside, if it’s a true freshman who puts the Jayhawks in the best position to win a game, you can bet Gill will send the rookie out onto the field.
For now, though, let’s examine which receivers might make the most grabs this fall.
- Johnathan Wilson, senior, 6-2, 190
The outlook: Partly because he’s the most experienced receiver in the bunch and partly because his name keeps coming up around the KU camp as a guy who has stood out, Wilson deserves the first crack at being this team’s go-to guy. This summer, receivers coach Darrell Wyatt told me that a clear-cut No. 1 receiver was the one thing that this unit lacks. With Sept. 4 drawing closer each day, it’s time for someone to establish himself as that guy. Wilson will get the first shot. Gill said he was impressed by Wilson’s route-running, demeanor and focus and the fact that he’s shown more maturity as a senior. Wilson doesn’t have top end speed but he is fearless and won’t be afraid to go after balls in traffic.
My take: I think Wilson will make a lot of plays for the Jayhawks this season and I think he’ll be among the leading receivers. However, something tells me that if he’s the guy who leads this team in yards and catches, that won’t be a very good sign for the Jayhawks. Consider him a solid No. 2 and hope for better.
- Daymond Patterson, junior, 5-9, 173
The outlook: Back to his natural position, Patterson finally gets the chance to resume his role as a playmaker. Lightning quick and blessed with breakaway speed, Patterson showed glimpses of what he was capable of as a true freshman. Now, two years more mature and polished, Patterson will get the chance to show that he belongs in the conversation about the most exciting players in the Big 12. If the Jayhawks were asked to vote, Patterson would be voted most likely to electrify. He’s shifty, has good vision and seems stuck on taking every reception to the house. Though his size won’t make him much of a threat over the middle, it seems ideal for his role in the slot.
My take: Look for Patterson to catch a lot of balls this season and look for him to rack up the yards-after-catch stat. Gill has emphasized getting the ball to his playmakers. I’m guessing we’ll see Patterson get the ball in just about every way imaginable this season. Short passes, deep balls, reverses, direct snaps, heck, maybe even out of the backfield. The sky’s the limit for this guy this year.
- Bradley McDougald, sophomore, 6-1, 195
The outlook: McDougald was a pleasant surprise in 2009. As a true freshman he caught 33 balls and benefited greatly from KU’s pass-heavy offense as well as the presence of future NFL draft picks Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier. McDougald is one of those guys who seems to make everything he does look smooth and, because of that, he’s not always the most exciting player on the field. He is productive, though, and his mix of good hands, good speed and toughness should translate into another solid season.
My take: If there’s any receiver on the roster who’s ready to inherit the Kerry Meier role, it’s McDougald. Sure hands, ultra reliable and smart enough to sit into the holes the defense allows. The potential’s there for McDougald to lead the Jayhawks in receiving this year. What remains to be seen is if the opportunity to do so is.
So there you have it, my best guess at the top three guys who will see the most balls thrown their way during the 2010 season. The good news about this year’s receiving corps is that it’s deep and talented, though, so at any moment any one of those other guys could jump into the mix.
Before we wrap up, a quick word about the rest of the top seven.
Chris Omigie, red-shirt freshman, 6-4, 194: What he did in the spring game (4 catches for 95 yards and a TD) definitely got people excited. The key for Chris will be to do that with consistency. You gotta like his size, especially down the field, and the way he attacks the ball when it’s in the air.
Christian Matthews, red-shirt freshman, 6-1, 186: A star in the making. Matthews also had a memorable spring game (caught a 37-yard game-winning TD from Kale Pick for the blue squad) and has opened eyes within the program. The former QB is pretty raw but he’s getting better and more comfortable at his new position every day and appears to be on a path to greatness. He’ll make catches this season but next year will be his big year.
D.J. Beshears, sophomore, 5-8, 174: Plays like Patterson and does it nearly as well. Quick, shifty and a natural playmaker, the only thing holding Beshears back will be opportunities. Red-shirting would not be the worst idea.
Erick McGriff, red-shirt freshman, 6-3, 209: Has the size you like but hasn’t been able to get completely healthy just yet. A natural at the position, McGriff’s size alone could end up leading to key receptions this season, should Chuck Long and the KU offense find a way to exploit opponents down the field.