One of the best aspects of the college game is that no matter how many players graduate or leave early to move on to the next level, at the end of the day the football program remains — and readies itself for the next season with a new batch of emerging talent.
With the 2010 NFL Draft in the books and the spring football season coming to a close on college campuses, the National Football Post takes a look at some of the players who will be replacing the marquee names drafted three weeks ago.
Third in the series will be a look at the wide receivers who will become household names by the time opening kickoff arrives on Thursday, Sept. 2. This is part two in the wide receivers series. See part one here.
Vidal Hazelton, Cincinnati: With a new head coach, a new quarterback and no Mardy Gilyard, will the Cincinnati Bearcats be able to score enough points in 2010? With their wide receiver corps, Bearcats fans may expect to score more under new leader Butch Jones. Armon Binns and D.J. Woods are the known commodities who will continue to produce for Cincy. But I’m putting the spotlight on USC transfer Vidal Hazelton, who had four catches for 88 yards and a score in the team’s spring game. Hazelton was one of the top ten recruits in the country coming out of high school and led the Trojans in receiving yards during his sophomore season. Even if he is the third wideout in the spread offense, he will get plenty of touches to make an impact.
*2007 stats (his most productive college campaign):
Hazelton: 50 catches for 540 yards and 4 TDs.
Marcus Sales, Syracuse: The loss of Mike Williams midway through the season really stymied the Syracuse offense last year. Who will emerge as the go-to receiver for the winner of the quarterback derby in the fall? While Alec Lemon and Van Chew have shown flashes, Marcus Sales is coming off of a nice spring game in which he led all wideouts with eight catches for 158 yards and two touchdowns. The Orange has nice depth at tailback and should spread the ball around on offense, but Sales could be the star receiver needed to make the offense click.
Sales: 28 catches for 324 yards and 3 TDs.
Kashif Moore, Connecticut: With Marcus Easley gone, in addition to Brad Kanuch, Kashif Moore will have his opportunity to emerge as the top target in the Huskies’ offense. Don’t expect him to catch a 70-yard touchdown on the first play — as he did in the spring game — every contest, but the UConn offense should be fine in the fall.
Moore: 22 catches for 370 yards and 3 TDs.
Xavier Dye, Clemson: With Jacoby Ford now an Oakland Raider and running back C.J. Spiller in Buffalo with the Bills, there is serious concern about the Clemson offense, specifically at wideout. After Ford’s team-leading 56 catches for 779 yards in ‘09, five of the team’s next seven leading pass-catchers were non-receivers. Xavier Dye returns as the leading receiver with 14 catches last season, and head coach Dabo Swinney hopes that Dye could finally step up his game. Brandon Clear, Terrance Ashe and Marquan Jones will also be in the mix, along with incoming freshmen Joe Craig, Martavis Bryant and DeAndre Hopkins. But it’s Dye who should get every opportunity to become Kyle Parker’s go-to guy. That is, if Parker bypasses a baseball career and sticks to the gridiron.
Dye: 14 catches for 236 yards and 3 TDs.
Deonte Thompson, Florida: One of the bigger questions that Florida faced entering spring practice was whether the team had enough playmakers around new quarterback John Brantley. With the loss of wideout Riley Cooper and tight end Aaron Hernandez, in addition to losing Tim Tebow’s versatility under center, the inexperienced receiving corps came under much scrutiny. But the spring game gave Gators fans hope that the offense would indeed be fine by the time SEC play begins in the fall. Chris Rainey should be able to translate his production from the backfield to slot receiver, senior Carl Moore had eight catches for 130 yards and a touchdown in the spring showcase, and Andre Debose reminded head coach Urban Meyer of former Gator Percy Harvin. But it was Deonte Thompson, who caught Brantley’s first pass of the game for a 47-yard gain, who seemed to improve the most during the offseason. Thompson was expected to be Brantley’s deep threat in the fall, but he impressed even in his intermediate route-running and with his ability to catch everything thrown his way. Despite losing a lot of talent, the Gators simply reload and never seem to take too much of a step back.
Thompson: 24 catches for 343 yards and 4 TDs.
Bradley McDougald, Kansas: It will be interesting to watch Kansas this season under new head coach Turner Gill. The offense may experience growing pains, however, without quarterback Todd Reesing and receivers Kerry Meier and Dezmon Briscoe. Senior Johnathan Wilson and sophomore Bradley McDougald are expected to step up at wideout, with McDougald likely to see a big jump in his numbers after moving to the outside from the slot, where he mentored under Meier during his freshman year.
McDougald: 33 catches for 318 yards and 0 TDs.
Dontavia Bogan, South Florida: New head coach Skip Holtz and the Bulls of South Florida are hurting at wide receiver, as Carlton Mitchell has moved onto the NFL and senior A.J. Love tore his ACL in the team's spring game. But if the performance of Dontavia Bogan in the spring showcase was any indication of what he can provide the offense on Saturdays during the fall, the Bulls may be okay. Bogan had nine catches for 228 yards and four touchdowns, clearly quarterback B.J. Daniels’ favorite target.
Bogan: 22 catches for 305 yards and 4 TDs.
Kendall Wright, Baylor: David Gettis is gone, but Kendall Wright actually was the leading receiver for Baylor in ’09. While he played mostly inside receiver as a sophomore, Wright should get some time on the outside in the fall. However, at 5-11 and only 185 pounds, his effectiveness in the slot will better serve the Bears. With the return of quarterback Robert Griffin, Wright should improve on his solid numbers from last season, when he caught less than three passes in a game just once and finished with 26 catches in his final four games.
Wright: 66 catches for 740 yards and 4 TDs.
Aaron Pflugrad, Arizona State: No Kyle Williams or Chris McGaha? No problem for the Sun Devils. Oregon transfer Aaron Pflugrad leads a solid group of receivers in Tempe, which includes junior-college transfer George Bell. The redshirt junior Pflugrad, who served on the Sun Devils’ scout team last year, should thrive in new coordinator Noel Mazzone’s offense. While only 5-10 and 180 pounds, Pflugrad will become a top target for either Steven Threet or Brock Osweiler in the fall.
Josh Smith, UCLA: The UCLA trio of Randall Carroll, Ricky Marvray and Jerry Johnson were given the majority of reps this spring, but their inconsistent play may keep them on the sideline in the fall, especially with the presence of Nelson Rosario and Taylor Embree. But the most intriguing wideout for the Bruins may be Colorado transfer Josh Smith, who was banged up this spring with a knee injury. He’s an electric athlete who showed enough promise to warrant a big chunk of playing time in 2010. While Rosario has emerged as one of the better wideouts in the conference, look for Smith to have an immediate impact in Rick Neuheisel and Norm Chow’s new “revolver” offense.
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