Better Worse Or Neutral: Wide Receivers

Steven Bisig-US PRESSWIRE

Our position previews continue as we look at the wide receivers. They were inconsistent last season, but their youth gives reason for optimism.

Returning Players: DiAndre Campbell (Jr), Marvin Hall (So), Jaydon Mickens (So), Antavius Sims (Sr), Kevin Smith (Sr), Kasen Williams (Jr), Kendyl Taylor (So)

Losses: Cody Bruns, James Johnson, Jamaal Jones

Additions: Darrell Daniels, John Ross, Damore'ea Stringfellow

Due to its youth in 2012, the wide receiver position was one of frequent consternation. It seemed all too often as if the players running routes downfield were not getting open quickly enough to allow the offense to function properly. Then, when things (all too frequently) broke down, the players also didn't seem to do anything to help out their quarterback in the "scramble drill."

The hope is that with another year in the system guys like DiAndre Campbell and Jaydon Mickens will have a better grasp on how to get open, and doing more than just running their routes to do so. Eric Keisau's move from coaching quarterbacks to wideouts should also aid in this, as he has a proven track record of developing talented players at that position into some of the best in the country (Keenan Allen and DeSean Jackson to name two).

The medical retirement of James Johnson over the summer was a big blow, as his career numbers of 68 catches, 791 yards and 7 touchdowns are better than anybody on the team not named Williams or Seferian-Jenkins. In fact, after those two players the numbers are pretty bleak. The only other player from 2012 who surpassed 200 yards receiving was Bishop Sankey.

Whether it's Campbell, who shined in spring ball, or Mickens, who showed flashes in 2012 but struggled with drops, or a healthy Kevin Smith, somebody in this group is going to have to step up. And if none of those guys do, then one (or more) of the incoming freshmen is going to be getting a long hard look as the number 2/3 option in the fall. And considering how talented Damore'ea Stringfellow, Darrell Daniels and John Ross are, it might not matter how much the returning players progress, because the freshmen will likely be pushing for Saturday reps regardless.

The Verdict: Better. The talent of the group is still intact, and since James Johnson didn't really play in 2012 you can't really call him a loss. Kasen Williams' goal is to catch 100 balls this year, and though that's a lofty goal, it's not completely out of the realm of possibility. Austin Seferian-Jenkins should also get some looks where he's lined up at receiver to create some mismatches. Young players get better, and the core of this group was underclassmen last season. They should be much improved.

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