A very interesting spot on the team to look at. With the graduation of Sambrano/Moutra/Atkins/Middleton this group takes with it 47.8% of all the receiving yards from the 2011 season and 64% of all the passing TDs from the season. These four were probably the best four that presented mis-matches against defenses, Sambrano and Atkins due to athleticism, Moutra b/c of his top speed, and Middleton as a goal-line threat split out against a cornerback especially. This group has some questions around it, who will become that next Sambrano that will be the explosive big-play guy, who will take over as the goalline threat?
Starting with the returning WRs:
Sam Gratton (Sr) 6-0 198. Sammy’s been a great slot WR for a few years now, some (like me) argue that he’s got the best hands on the team. So where will we find Sam this year, remaining as a slot WR or split out wide as an X or Z? Sam isn’t the fastest of the bunch but he’s got some wheels, obviously his ability as a possession receiver will be his strong suit, I would think based on his experience they’ll want him out there as much as possible, but we’ll just have to see. Another thing Sam is good at is blocking as well, he’s pretty good about taking a cornerbacks feet out from under him.
Bryce Carver (Sr) 6-1 180. Bryce and Sam are very similar in the way they’ve played, as I’ve seen it. Bryce was probably on the verge of a potentially big season this last year when halfway through fall camp he sprained his ankle badly, he didn’t see the field much for quite some time and never fully got back into the swing of things. Bryce is a great route-runner and can play in the slot or split out. He’ll be challenging to be one of the starters this year I’d suspect. I’ve not noticed him much on run blocking, I’ll pay more attention to that this spring.
Mitch Saylor (So) 6-5 210. Another guy who was looking forward to an increased 2011 role that saw it derailed in fall camp, either a broken or badly sprained wrist put Mitch on the shelf for a while. Obviously his height but more importantly his surprising speed/quickness shows why the staff really is expecting big things from him. Mitch can catch well but needs to work on separating from corners that will jam him at the line. I hope he can stay healthy and show Griz Nation what the future looks like at WR, he’s a solid threat and a big mis-match against any cornerback in the conference.
Josh Dennard (So) 5-11 180. I could be wrong but in Pflu’s first two years here Josh is maybe the first player on offense that was not redshirted as a true freshman and put into playing situations. Josh showed why quickly last fall and followed through with some good play on special teams and even a touchdown against Weber. Josh could use some more weight and needs to have a better physical presence on the field but I’m seeing shades of Jabin Sambrano in him. I’m thinking he’ll be a slot WR this year and a big factor in the passing game.
Cam Warren (Jr) 5-7 167. Another slot WR that’s had limited opportunities so far. Obviously Cam is not a guy you want blocking a safety or chipping an outside linebacker on a running play, although he doesn’t shy away from that. He’s a quick guy but I’ve not noticed him actually running past his coverage a lot, usually uses his agility to get open but doesn’t break away.
Sean Haynes (So) 6-3 190. Haynes is a kid I’m expecting a lot from this year. A touted recruit in 2010 that wound up red-shirting that year and then really not getting chance much this last year he’s finally got a chance to show what he can do. In 2011 I saw him lined up as slot-WR in a lot of practices, I believe it was the spring he hurt his ankle and didn’t practice much. Haynes is a bit of an unknown for me so far, I’ve not seen much of him in a while. Obviously if he can get rolling his height and quickness matched up against a linebacker or safety could provide some big plays.
Brandon Macguire (Jr) 6-1 200. I’m not sure his status with the team, Brandon played spring ball for the Griz but then wasn’t there when fall camp started. However once Aaron Roberts hung it up a week into fall, Brandon was back on the team. Brandon a very crisp route-runner and a good blocker, catching (compared to some other players) has been a bit of an issue, separation against the Griz CBs was not there much.
Archie Woulard (Sr) 6-4 180. For all the message board hype around this guy I didn’t see much in fall camp, however that’s because I think I only saw him practice 2 or 3 days total, with the 3rd string/frosh guys. I don’t know his overall status with the team, I saw him on the bench this last season but I’m not sure if he was red shirting or just sitting. Archie’s a tall guy but slower than the rest of the taller WRs and was a lot more reluctant to make tough catches than other WRs in the group.
Kevin Berland (So) 5-9 175. Kevin in fall camp suddenly found himself the primary PR/KR near the end as the staff wanted to keep Jabin and Peter healthy for the season. The results were mixed, but I don’t know if that was a planned move or just a snap decision to try out. Kevin’s quick, but I’ve not seen much of him yet. If the staff thinks they’ve got a KR/PR in him we’ll see that this spring.
As for the TEs:
Greg Hardy (Sr) 6-5 245. I hope Greg in his final season gets more chances to catch some passes, he’s a real good pass-catching TE, I believe. Obviously the Big Sky coaches all believe he’s the best TE in the conference as well, voting him to the 1st team this last year despite not having any eye-popping stats. Greg will be the main dude of this group, he’s a good blocker and can really piss guys off and get in their head, and he can out-run many safeties as well.
Jacob Haas (Sr) 6-5 225. I think Haas will probably come into fall camp a little heavier than 225… however his lighter frame has had some advantage in the passing game. This year we could see him put to use like Kavario Middleton was, going 1-on-1 against a 5-9 corner. Haas will presumably be out this spring as he tore his ACL against ISU.
Aschan Richards (RS Frosh) 6-6 225. Aschan was a target McKinney liked to go to this fall with the younger guy drills. Decent catching, not bad on blocking. He’ll be probably rotating in and out with the 1s and 2s this spring.
Clay Peirson? Rumored to be moving over to TE
Shay Smithwick-Hann? Was presumed to move to TE at some point, but will he?
New guys we’ll see in the fall:
Ryan Burke 6-4 195 (WR) Chase Naccarato 5-8 160 (WR) Taylor Walcott 6-0 175 (WR) Hayden Craig 6-5 246 (TE)
And then there’s Ellis Henderson at 6-0 180 who is already here and might be at CB or WR, although looking at depth I’d wonder if he’ll first look at cornerback as well as PR/KR.
It seems that with this recruiting class the staff sees some quick gaps coming up, especially with three more seniors in the WR corps and our best TE graduating. Any one of them might forego a red shirt and get a chance, we’ll have to see come fall.
So if I were to guess depth I’d say:
X: Saylor / Haynes / Macguire
Z: Gratton / Carver / Woulard? / Berland
Y (slot): Dennard / Warren OR Haynes
TE: Hardy / Haas / Pierson? OR Richards