A lot of depth and experience returns to the Jag receiving corp. this spring. With that comes a fair share of inconsistency. There were issues in 2012 with dropped passes (as there have been in year past), and some hiccups between the receivers and QBs on some sight adjustments. Still, route running improved and the Jag receivers are willing blockers down field.
Every wide receiver who caught a pass for South Alabama last fall should return for spring drills with the exception of Gabe Loper who converted from DB, started 3 games and proved to be the Jags best deep threat. Offensively, he finished the year with 17 receptions, 281 yards and 2 TD. His 16.5 yards per catch was a team best.
Redshirt senior Corey Besteda was right behind Loper in yards per catch at 15.4, finishing the year with 28 catches for 430 yards and 2 touchdowns. Redshirt senior Bryant Lavender finished 2012 second on the team in receptions (41) and third on the team in yards (378). He has 1,029 career receiving yards. Redshirt senior Corey Waldon missed the first few games, but came back to register 9 catches for 88 yards. He’s a reliable underneath receiver (719 career yards) who seems to have a knack for picking up first downs.
Redshirt junior Jereme Jones was South Alabama’s best receiver in 2012. At 5’8,160 (and clearly a player after coach Joey Jones’ own heart), the former McGill-Toolen star hauled in 45 aerials for 513 yards and 7 TD.
All-purpose player T.J. Glover is more RB than wide receiver, but he’s dangerous with the ball in his hands and has been used as a WR in the past. 361 of the redshirt junior’s career 2,175 all-purpose yards have come on pass receptions (some at WR and some out of the backfield).
The new face to the mix this spring at WR is junior college transfer ShaVarez Smith. Last fall at Dean College (Franklin, Mass.) Smith roped in 43 passes for 685 yards and 6 scores. At 6’2,200 with excellent speed, Smith is tough to bring down in the open field. As evidence of his running ability, Smith ripped off 3 rushes for 99 yards in 2012.
Sophomore Cameron Broadnax (2 receptions, 14 yards), redshirt sophomore Jake Howton (2 recptions, 9 yards in 2011), redshirt sophomore Akeem Appleton, redshirt sophomore Nathan Sassaman, redshirt freshman Jordan Terrell, redshirt junior Tyrome Bivins, redshirt junior Ben Whiteside and redshirt sophomore Chris Lewis round out the list of WR jockeying for playing time.
Perhaps the toughest loss to the receiving unit comes with the loss of the tight end Greg Hollinger. In 2012, Hollinger hauled in 22 passes for 321 yards and 2 touchdowns. Hollinger was a very athletic option at TE. Kennedy Helms and Ryne Baxter have both exhausted their eligibility at TE. Both were hard-nosed player not afraid of doing the dirty work.
Redshirt junior Jared Palmer would have been in line for playing time this spring, but he’s coming off knee surgery and won’t be 100%.
Junior Wes Saxton basically split TE duties with Greg Hollinger in 2012. He started 7 games, while collecting 26 catches for 336 yards and 1 TD. Look for Saxton’s work load to increase with no other option on the roster equal to Hollinger to take snaps away from him. Redshirt junior Rush Hendricks is a big physical TE who gets used as a FB is certain short yardage packages. He’s caught 3 passes for 32 yards in his career. One interesting player at TE is 6’4,240 redshirt junior Ryan Onnka. Onnka has yet to really play in his career, but he’s a big, mobile target who pulled in 43 balls for 658 yards and 3 touchdowns as a high school senior. Redshirt freshman Kyle Sappington is another player with a nice prep resume who will be in the mix. Two years ago as a high school senior, be pulled in 42 throws for 687 yards and 8 TD for American Christian Academy. He’s enough of an athlete to cause some match-up issues. Another interesting player who could factor in as a big WR or a TE is former Davidson High School standout DeMarrion Buford-Hughes. At 6’3,215, Buford-Hughes sat out the 2012 season after transferring from Mississippi College. As a true freshman at Mississippi College in 2011, he hauled in 24 passes for 647 yards and 8 TD.
Hopefully, having so many receivers back with a year’s worth of experience in the new offense will start to pay off in more consistency. Of course, a lot of that may depend on the QB battle…