I was listening to last week's Move the Sticks podcast where host Daniel Jeremiah had on former NFL wide receiver Nate Burleson talking wide receiver play. They talked about a number of topics, but I found it really interesting when they started discussing what a number one receiver is in their opinion.
To sum up it quickly without regurgitating everything they were saying (if you want to hear the whole thing fast forward to the 11 minute mark of episode 2), they said a number one receiver was someone who can win on third down and in the red zone. Someone you can count on when you need to go to them for a catch. It's not just about splash plays. It's about being able to go to that receiver any time you want because they get open virtually every time.
I couldn't agree more with what they were saying and I think most Irish fans would agree when thinking of some recent examples. Michael Floyd was that number one receiver that could be counted on in every area. TJ Jones was that number one receiver that did it all for Notre Dame last season. In the early part of this season, it looks like Will Fuller might be that guy on the current squad.
It's comforting to think of, especially because Fuller is only a sophomore. It should also make everyone feel good that wide receiver commit Miles Boykin could be a player that emerges into that number one receiver one day for Notre Dame. He's a good candidate because he has shown the ability to win in the red zone.
It's easy to suggest that Boykin or CJ Sanders might end up being "the guy" one day because they both have 4 star rankings. Well, allow me to reintroduce a forgotten member of this recruiting class in wide receiver commit Jalen Guyton. He's the one who committed early and, like most early commits, got lost in the excitement of other higher ranked commitments like Shaun Crawford, Josh Barajas, and the other two receivers committed.
Guyton is only considered a composite 3 star player (although he is rated as 4 star player by ESPN). Logic would say he is the least likely to be a number one receiver at the next level and most of the time that logic is pretty sound. But there is a saying in football that "the film doesn't lie" and I really like what I have seen from Guyton's senior film thus far.
He's beaten off coverage. He has won against press coverage. He has gotten deep for big plays. He's also running multiple routes and is that number one guy for Allen High and his quarterback, Texas A&M commit Kyler Murray.
Murray is one of the top quarterbacks in the 2015 recruiting class Guyton is the receiver he relies on. Here's two examples of Guyton winning in the red zone and on third down, just like a number one wide receiver should.
Guyton is isolated on the left side of the formation. Like a lot of plays in the red zone, it is tight man coverage.
He fortunately doesn't have to worry about a jam, but still has to work to get his release. You can see that Murray only has one read on the play. The ball is headed to Guyton.
It's every defensive back's favorite play! A back shoulder throw that Murray threw before Guyton had even turned his head.
The ball is a bit high, but Guyton goes up and gets it at its highest point. And like that, six points. It was almost too easy.
Next up is a third and long situation.
Guyton lines up all over the field for Allen, but he's lined up on the left as the X receiver.
The corner gives him a free release, which is always a bad idea when playing someone tight at the line.
He already has the corner turned and chasing him like his life depends on it even though the corner looks like he has safety help over the top.
As soon as he had the corner turned and chasing, he had this play won. Murray delivers a strike after Guyton worked past the sticks and came back to catch the football.
He even breaks a tackle for good measure at the end of the play before being tackled by the safety.
There are plenty of other plays where Guyton continues to get open in just about every way imaginable including plenty of splash plays where he is getting deep. Sometimes though, getting deep isn't an option. Sometimes your team needs six yards and you are the guy that can get them ten.
It's a long way to go before it will be determined what kind of players him, Sanders, and Boykin will develop into at the next level. The jury was out on Jones being a number one until he went and played like one his senior season and no one was predicting Will Fuller to be much more than a deep threat prior to this current season either. All I'm saying is to not count out Guyton possibly being that guy one day for Notre Dame. He's putting together a pretty good resume playing that role for his high school right now.