Part 4 of this series is back with a look at the pass catchers on the roster.
*Rankings are from 1 (poor) to 10 (great).
2013 Wideouts & Tight Ends (As Predicted on 6/20/13)
My thoughts last year boiled down to this: We'd be fine at receiver with the loss of a couple 2nd stringers and transfers, while replacing Tyler Eifert at tight end would be a lot tougher. I did recognize that we saw a lot of differing opinions on the talent level heading into 2013 too.
These combined units are really interesting though because I think there's a wide range of opinions on them---some might not be too excited at their prospects while others are really enthusiastic about a new crop of young players plus the returning veterans. I'm not sure you can say that about any other area on the roster. Well, maybe running back too.
We figured the ball would be thrown more last year compared to 2012 and that came to fruition with 41 more attempts, which is roughly like playing 5 extra quarters of football. Surprisingly, it wasn't that hard replacing Eifert's production as Niklas and Koyack combined for 3 more touchdowns, 14 more yards, and just 8 fewer catches.
Receiver also took a step forward. Without Riddick's 36 receptions and the Irish running backs being a black hole as pass catchers last fall there were a lot more targets at wideouts. The presumed top three returning veterans in TJ Jones (+459 yards), DaVaris Daniels (+255 yards) and Chris Brown (+153) each boosted their production and had varying degress of respectable seasons.
2014 Wideouts & Tight Ends
Modest gains across the board, does that feel right? Looking at each category that's what I came up with but let's see if talking through things gets the same numbers.
Jones and Niklas are the only two major contributors gone, plus James Onwaulu moved to defense.
Can Daniels have a 1,000 yard season similar to Jones last year? I think that's certainly possible if he gets his head right and can stay healthy.
Is Koyack capable of catching 30 passes? I don't think I would bet against that happening for him in the fall.
If this is all we have to replace, and the players looking to fill those roles are ready and talented, shouldn't we be better overall if there's more depth below them? Tight end clearly has major issues with depth but more so with experienced depth since there's no one behind Koyack who has taken a single snap in their career. That's pretty scary for a program that is used to playing 2 or 3 tight ends with regularity.
However, we are probably more likely to see less emphasis on the tight end position this year and maybe even an extra offensive lineman as a blocker instead of a redshirt or true freshman tight end. That lack of reliance on extra tight ends is off-set by an exciting and developing wide receiver corps.
Daniels, Brown, Fuller, Robinson, and Prosise all saw the field with regularity last year. That's a really nice group of players who have experience and are ready to up their game in 2013. Moving Carlisle to the slot might be the tipping point for this group to have a higher grade than last year. He's a weapon that can add 20-25 catches and a couple touchdowns.