USF receivers: Who steps up alongside Davis?
Continuing our run through USF football, position by position, we talked to USF receivers coach David Reaves last week about the group of playmakers he'll have in Willie Taggart's West Coast offense this fall.
A few big names aren't back from last season, with Sterling Griffin transferring (likely to Louisiana Tech) and Terrence Mitchell moved to corner, suspended and transferring out himself. Andre Davis has established himself as the top player in the group, solidifying that with two touchdown receptions in the spring game. Who's next in line to catch passes from USF's as-yet-unnamed starting quarterback? Lots of notes on that and more here ...
-- Davis broke out last year with perhaps the biggest receiving game in USF history, getting 12 balls for 191 yards and two touchdowns in USF's comeback win at Nevada. But he didn't get a 100-yard game again all season -- while he didn't miss any games, he was slowed by a knee injury and defenses putting extra attention on him. His final four games? Just 88 yards on 11 catches with no touchdowns. Still, expectations are high for him improving on all his numbers, including his team-best six touchdown receptions.
"The biggest thing with Andre is we have to keep honing in on him coming in and out of his routes, making precise cuts and edge breaks, being a complete technician in everything he does," Reaves said. "We all know he can go up and get the football when it's in the air. We've seen that ever since his playing days at Jefferson. Now I want to take his game to the next level as far as being a precision route-runner."
-- Davis had 46 catches for 534 yards and six scores last year -- the rest of the returning receivers combined for 47 catches for 619 yards and two scores. None of USF's top 11 players in receptions averaged so much as 15 yards a catch, with yardage numbers lessened by frequent screens and short passes. Reaves cautions not to use last year's statistics as a reference because of major changes in the scheme for USF.
"What they did last year offensively is completely different than what we're doing offensively," he said. "Once defenses start seeing and gameplanning against what we do, with what Coach Taggart does offensively, it's very multiple and should be exciting, should get some one-on-one coverage on the outside."
-- So after Davis, who is Reaves looking to have the biggest roles at the position, at least entering preseason camp? You might be surprised by some of the names mentioned.
"The competition is wide-open going in," he said. "You look at a guy like Deonte Welch, he had a very good spring for us. Ruben Gonzalez, Alex Mut had solid springs for us, as well as D'Vario Montgomery, until he sprained his ankle. He was about 50-50 through spring. The guy I'm excited about is Derrick Hopkins. He can really go. He gives you that threat that not a lot of people have with his speed. We have guys that should be able to make plays for us. We have to make sure they're tough and physical and smart to learn the whole entire scheme."
-- Reaves hopes that he can stay in his job for a while, adding continuity to a position that's had three WR coaches in three years. Mut, for instance, has yet to play a down, but as a redshirt freshman he's on his third receivers coach.
"He's not as young as a lot of people think. He's definitely one of our smartest players, can play all over the field and is talented on special teams," he said. "Alex Mut will be right there in the mix, from what he can bring to this team."
On the limitations that come with three coaches in three seasons: "If we can get some stability at the position, where these guys are hearing the same voice over time, they're going to get better. I think that will help these guys: This is what we do, here's your coach, now let's keep getting better and better."
-- There's less specialization in the receivers -- no more you're an X, you're a Y, you're a Z -- as Reaves said the expectation is having all the receivers understand entire plays, not just one potential route on each play.
"With the pro style offense Coach Taggart has brought here, these guys cannot just say 'I'm the X, on the ball, away from the call,'" he said. "You can call one formation five, six different ways and he can move those guys to any position we want. They're having to learn the whole concept of the play, rather than 'this is what I do on this play.' I think they see what we do is what teams are doing on Sundays."
-- Reaves went on to mention Stephen Bravo-Brown, back after missing a year with a knee injury, and walk-on Jordan Duval. That's eight names, and you haven't heard him mention Chris Dunkley, the Florida transfer who had a key long touchdown in the Nevada win, but was suspended from the team after a late September arrest and just rejoined the roster in the past month. "The most I know about Chris Dunkley is when I was recruiting him when I was at Tennessee," Reaves said. "Let's see what he can do. Everyone's talked about what he did in high school, but he hasn't really done anything in college. We'll see. It's a guy who could come out there and make a lot of plays for us, do some good things. You never know. He's kind of a wild card in the bunch."