Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Season Preview Day 2 Part 2: Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

It's time for part 2 and the receiving corp/tight ends!

Last year one of the biggest injuries the team suffered was the loss of the starting flanker Derek Kinder to a knee injury. The previous season Kinder had been one of the best receivers in the country and the centerpiece of the offense. When Kinder went down in camp the writing should have been on the wall for the passing attack because of the impact he had with his own play but the impact of his play on Oderick Turner. Well Kinder is back but his camp has been anything but perfect; he suffered a slight tweak to the knee early and missed a few days of practice. Despite our depth at wide receiver Kinder's knee will be one of the stories of the season. If he is back in full form the offense will only be that much better but if he has lost a step it will be interesting to see his impact on the rest of the offense.

Oderick Turner the starting split end saw a bit of decline from his freshman year mainly due to the loss of Kinder and mental mistakes. Everybody remembers his drop against Michigan St. in the endzone and hopefully he does as well. Last season there was much more pressure on Turner to produce and this season there will be much less. Where the pressure is going to lie for Turner is in consistency, effort, and eliminating the stupid mistakes that killed him last year. He will be pushed mightly by the man backing him up in Jonathan Baldwin.

Speaking of Baldwin he could be the impact freshman of this season. At 6'5 220 pounds with the speed of a track athlete Baldwin looks like the prototype of the modern big play wide receiver. His circus catches in camp as well as his blinding speed have earned him playing time. If we stretch the field as much as has been promised Baldwin is going to be at the center of the vertical passing attack. Another thing to think about with Baldwin is that we will be able to bring back the inside the 20 yard line fade play that Larry Fitzgerald made famous. Baldwin will be able to outjump every player on the field and that fade play can be another great weapon for Bill Stull.

Backing up Kinder at the split end position is Cedric McGhee and he is another player who has been getting rave reviews in camp. His effort and solid route running will be a great asset when we spread the field. McGhee is a guy that could slide into the starting lineup if there is an injury at any point. TJ Porter, the most productive receiver last season, had a bit of an injury in camp and has slide down the depth chart a bit but he will play. Porter has good speed and is a solid wide receiver who will provide us great depth.

Further down the depth chart behind Porter is Aaron Smith who redshirted last season and I would expect to see him get on the field as a 6th or 7th option, definitely one of the future. Mike Shanahan, not the coach but a 6'5 freshman, will probably end up redshirting and competing for a job in a season or two. Aundre Wright is going to be returning kicks but could factor in as a backup for Porter. Wright has blinding speed and will make a big impact in the return game. Cam Saddler the highly rated wide receiver/kick returner got injured during camp and will be back next year.

Tight end is a position that has everything you look for depth, experience, and raw talent. Nate Byham is a premier tight end, he is on the Mackey Award watch list, and may be one of the more complete players on the team. He is an extremely talented route runner with seperation speed but where he has had the most impact is as a blocker. In a different offense Byham could be putting up big numbers but he has done everything that is asked of him. I have a feeling he will be called upon to help whoever the right tackle is by chipping in on his guy and adding double teams when necessary.

Dorin Dickerson has finally found his position as the other tight end replacing Darrell Strong. Dickerson is going to add another matchup nightmare to the offense and could flourish in his new role. He is too fast to be covered by a linebacker and when he gets his hands on the ball he won't be able to be tackled by secondary players. I feel like Dickerson is going to have the opportunity to put up big yardage numbers and score some touchdowns. This is the perfect position for him and his work in the last two offseasons bulking up has made him the perfect size for this position. Blocking wise I think Dickerson will be fine because the offense doesn't really call for the "H-back" position to take a heavy blocking load. Strong was a poor blocker and he still found a role for himself at this position, hopefully with Dickerson's work ethic he will develop his blocking skills over the next two seasons.

John Pelusi has been an extremely solid player the last two years and will get playing time. He is a more solid blocker than Dickerson and that will come in handy in short yardage situations. Also he is a more than adequate route runner and pass catcher. The tight end postion will definitely be a three man rotation with Byham as the star.

Wide receiver and tight end are going to give Stull plenty of options in the passing game. With adequate quarterback play we could see some big yardage and reception totals put up.

Back tomorrow to start with the defense and thanks to all the new readers. We have received a big jump over the past few days.

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