Five Spring Thoughts on the Receivers With spring practice underway, we have five thoughts on the receivers, who only have to replace one senior in Bradley Marquez, but he’s an incredibly important receiver. The emergence of Ian Sadler and Devin Lauderdale created a dynamic receiving corps that made the offense good to great.
1. Pretty Thin. I don’t think I really identified the receiver position as being thin until National Signing Day when Eric Morris opined that it was necessary to take five receivers. That seemed gluttonous to me, but in retrospect, that thought really isn’t accurate. The thinnest part of the receiver group is the under-performing wide receivers in that there are simply too many questions about whether or not a wide receiver will step up their play and establish themselves outside. I think we’re still figuring out where guys will eventually play, but the outside receivers are either unproven or they will be true freshmen.
2. Inside Receivers Set . . . For the Most Part. I feel like there’s a decent rotation here, or there will be a decent rotation of four guys before the end of the spring. I think Texas Tech has a combination of Jakeem Grant, Ian Sadler, Brad Pearson and Cameron Batson. I think that’s a pretty solid group of four with Sadler and Grant being the best playmakers of the two. Batson is a bit behind those two, but let’s not forget that Batson was a do-it-all quarterback for his high school team in Oklahoma and the fact that Batson saw lots of action returning punts probably accelerated that progression in some ways. And despite his flaws, Grant still led this team in receptions, perhaps by default, which may speak to this group of receivers more than anything else. Grant is really good, but like a lot of you have asked, is he a lead receiver and the answer is probably no, he’s not. That needs to be one of the outside guys.
3. Lauderdale and Sadler’s Emergence Were Ridiculously Important. The fact that Ian Sadler progressed really quickly in 2014 was incredibly important to the 2015 season. Sadler hardly played at all for the first six games, catching only 3 passes for 21 yards against Kansas State was his only work. Sadler was shut out against West Virginia and you started to see Sadler be a bigger part of the offense starting with Kansas, where he caught 4 passes for 68 yards and a touchdown. The best part of Sadler’s game was that he normally wasn’t just going for the dink-and-dunk stuff, but he’s averaging anywhere between 13 to 22 yards per catch (save the Texas game where he caught 3 for 30).
To have yet another inside receiver that can stretch the field like Grant and start to make some plays made this offense significantly better because now, you could move Marquez to the wide side of the field, which resulted in actually putting a productive player at all four receiver positions.
If you really think about it, the confluence of events that maybe led the offense to being just okay to really run to watch all somewhat started to happen with Sadler starting and Marquez moving back outside and Devin Lauderdale being a true and consistent deep threat. Depending on your frame of mind, Patrick Mahomes helped that situation or was the direct beneficiary of those moves, but it seemed to all happen at the time time. An avalanche of sorts.
4. Don’t Underestimate Marquez’s Impact. Bradley Marquez was really terrific, he was second on the team with 65 receptions (2 behind Grant) for 821 yards and 10 touchdowns. I oftentimes very much get caught up in the idea that, “Oh, we’ll just replace Player X with Player Y and not lose a step.” I’m never confident that a true freshman can do it simply because playing receiver is tough and writing things like that diminishes how terrific Marquez really was. Marquez wasn’t perfect, by any means, but he was really good and until someone actually does “it” then I’m not going to declare that some receiver will just waltz in and be just as good. I think that if you really want to count on anything, start counting on the improvement of Reginald Davis, Dylan Cantrell and Jakari Dillard. All are pretty much unproven, but I do think every one of these guys are hard-working individuals, but there just hasn’t been this connect of highly productive receiver for Davis and Cantrell just yet, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t happen. Dillard, as a redshirt freshman, will get his chance this year.
5. Reinforcements On the Way. Oh hey, look at me write about not counting on freshmen, but about to write about freshmen. I think you’ll see some of these players be capable back-ups if necessary, but I’m not counting on anything.
I’m slowly but surely talking myself into the idea that Keke Coutee, Jonathan Giles, Quan Shorts and Tony Brown are going to be ridiculously versatile players, where Texas Tech will have some real options as to where they can plug and play these guys. They can play inside as they all have real quickness to do that, but they could also play outside too. Coutee seems like a Lauderdale starter kit or he could play inside as well and make lots of people miss.
Lots and lots of versatility.
I’d also add that Brown and Giles are really good prospects, but consider the fact that Shorts is near 200 pounds as an incoming freshman. Having that sort of size is significant because you don’t have Big 12 defensive backs knocking him off of his route. Don’t discount that size for Shorts.
And we haven’t even talked about the two big guys, Donta Thompson and J.F. Thomas, who are both over 6’4″ and their film is littered with big-time catches, going up and over opposing receivers. Texas Tech hasn’t had this sort of size at outside receiver since . . . Darrin Moore?