By Dalton Ray —
TLC’s position breakdown continues and week three highlights the wide spot. Last week, running backs were under the microscope.
If there’s one position Louisville fans should be most comfortable with, it’s wide receiver. With unlimited depth and a vast array of talented, athletic players, Louisville’s receiving corps is bound to show out this year.
Louisville returns all 10 receivers who recorded a pass last season. In the spring, U of L had 13 receivers on the roster and added another four in the 2016 recruiting class. With 11 receivers 6-foot-3 or taller, the unit is big and athletic. The average height of the group is 6-foot-2 and the position only has two players under 6 feet tall.
The 2015 receiving performance was underwhelming and with the carousel at the quarterback position, it’s not hard to understand why. It wasn’t just the guy taking snaps causing problems, the wide outs should take their own share of the blame. With Lamar Jackson and Kyle Bolin returning, the 2016 season should look much better.
Returning 2015 stat leaders:
Jamari Staples (senior): 37 receptions, 638 yards, 17.24 yards per catch, 3 touchdowns
James Quick (senior): 39 receptions, 624 yards, 16 yards per catch, 5 touchdowns
Jaylen Smith (sophomore): 29 receptions, 376 yards, 12.97 yards per catch, 1 touchdown
Traveon Samuel (sophomore): 18 receptions, 177 yards, 9.83 yards per catch, 1 touchdown
Devante Peete (sophomore): 12 receptions, 166 yards, 13.83 yards per catch, 1 touchdown
Ja’Quay Savage (junior): 12 receptions, 135 yards, 11.25 yards per catch, 1 touchdown
Reggie Bonnafon (junior): 10 receptions, 105 yards, 10.5 yards per catch
The leading receiver last year wasn’t the former five-star recruit out of Trinity or the former four-star transfer from Texas A&M, but the UAB transfer that fell into coach Bobby Petrino’s lap. Staples is a 6-foot-4, long-armed outside threat that is dangerous in deep-ball situations. Staples demands attention outside the hashes and his big-play ability has NFL scouts drooling. The senior is great at making the catch, protecting the ball with two hands, then bracing for big hits. If he stays healthy, Staples can be one of the best wide outs in the ACC.
The outside receiver spot will be a battle between Bonnafon, Savage and Smith. As a former quarterback, Bonnafon’s understanding of the offense is unparalleled. His athletic ability makes him an option to get the ball at receiver, running back and quarterback. Savage has all the ability to take the number-two spot on the depth chart but hasn’t been able to grasp it.
Savage is a big and tall, 6-foot-3 and 215 lbs., an athletic wide out that possesses all tools to be a standout but has yet to actually take advantage. Smith is another big receiver, 6-foot-4 and 185-pounds, who has big play capability. He has the ability to create separation downfield but struggled to hold on to the deep ball once he hauls it in. Smith might have the best chemistry with Jackson as both sophomores look to lead the Cardinal offense over the coming years. Smith seems to be rising star for Petrino’s offensive passing game.
Louisville’s own Quick is finally a senior and needs to make an impact. Last season, Quick was previously known for dropping passes and has only totaled 1,263 yards with eight touchdowns in the last three years. Last season, Quick caught more than half of his touchdowns, three, against Florida State. His performance against FSU was the kind of player fans have been expecting since his commitment. The speedy slot receiver can open space for the outside receivers.
One of the most electrifying players for U of L is the 5-foot-7, diverse slot receiver Samuel. Against Clemson, Samuel showed fans just what he brings to the table with his fourth quarter 100-yard kick return for a touchdown. A top-10 player out of Alabama, Samuel is lightning in a bottle. His start-stop ability is unbelievable and he possesses an uncanny skill to find running lanes.
Emonee Spence is a rangy wide out that was considered one of the best recruits of the 2015 class. Spence might be the most acrobatic receiver on the team and isn’t afraid to go up for a ball. With his size, 6-foot-2 and 200 lbs., Spence has more than enough ability to close in on playing time this year in one of the outside receiving spots.
The tallest receiver on the team is Devante Peete. At 6-foot-6, many thought Peete might make the transition to tight end. The Florida native has stayed at his natural position and caught a quarter of his passes, three, in the home opener against Auburn. Peete showed that he can be a reliable target going up and pulling down contested throws. He was third on team in yards per catch last year with 13.83.
According to ESPN, three of Louisville best recruits in the 2016 were receivers Desmond Fitzpatrick, Chris Taylor-Yamanoha and Seth Dawkins. All three were four-star players and Fitzpatrick was the most coveted wide out.
The freshman from Michigan comes in with a good frame to work with and has great football instincts. While he may not stand out in any one category, Fitzpatrick is good in all receiver traits and has a great work ethic. Fitzpatrick is a prototypical outside receiver that has the ball skills to make an impact this season if an upperclassman slisp up.
Taylor-Yamanoha comes all the way from California and has a great wingspan for his height, 6-foot-2. The first thing one would notice about Taylor-Yamanoha is how small he plays for his size. He is shifty and elusive in short areas that makes him difficult to tackle. Taylor-Yamanoha is acrobatic and aggressive once the ball is in the air.
Dawkins has the ability to be the best wide out in this class. Already 6-foot-3 and 200 lbs., Dawkins is a big and smooth receiver who has great footwork. Once he gets a full head of steam, Dawkins is very hard to bring down because of his size and stride. Dawkins is physical receiver who scored 23 touchdowns in his senior campaign.
Keion “Boobie” Wakefield is the fourth receiver of the 2016 class. Wakefield is a 2015 state championship at Louisville Male High School and piled up more than 2,500 total yards with more than 35 touchdowns in his career. Another Louisville product, Wakefield is a explosive slot receiver with great feet and route-running skills. Wakefield is great in small areas and can make defenders miss in a phone booth. He will fit in nicely in the slot position with Quick and Samuel.
Looking to make a name
Javonte Bagley is starting to find himself getting lost in the shuffle of the depth of the receivers. While he has the size, 6-foot-3 and 195 lbs., he lacks breakaway speed and play-making ability.
Senior wide out Gio Pascascio came in under the Charlie Strong regime. The former second-team all-conference player from Glendale Community College has mainly played special teams in his time as a Cardinal.
Chris Miele is a redshirt junior who came from Louisville’s duPont Manual High School. The former Ram has only seen action in one game in 2014.
Pat Thomas was also a Strong recruit that was brought in from a junior college. Coming in as a quarterback, Thomas made the switch to receiver because of his athletic ability.
File Photo / The Louisville Cardinal