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Position Reports: Wide Receivers

Posted on July 31, 2018, in Football by StLouHoo.

Welcome back to our 2018 Football Season Preview. In this installment, we're tackling the Wide Receiver position group. To view our preview schedule and read already-completed pieces, click here.

Who's Gone?

Andre Levrone - The 6'3" UDFA with Ravens collected 34 catches for 689 yards and 7 TDs last year, and was Benkert's best big play receiver. His size and experience will be missed.

Doni Dowling - Virginia's biggest loss from last year at the skill positions, Dowling caught 50 passes last year for 647 yards and 5 TDs, but also had a penchant for costly penalties and miscues. 

Warren Craft - Concussions ended Craft's promising career this offseason. He had 13 career receptions in his first two playing seasons.

Richard Burney - The backup TE isn't truly gone, but he's gone from the offense, having switched to DE at the end of last season, taking his 3 career catches with him.

Who's Back?

Wide Receivers

Olamide Zaccheus - Sr - 5'8" 190 lbs - The most established skill position player on the roster, and the offense's best player both this year and last, Oz can play all over the field, out of the backfield, the slot, or split wide, using his speed and shiftiness, plus great hands, to grab 85 passes for 895 yards and 5 ReTDs. He also added 27 carries for 182 yards (6.7 ypc) and 1 RuTD.

Joe Reed - Jr - 6'1" 215 lbs - Known mostly for his return duties on special teams so far (2 KORs for TDs last year!), 2017 also saw him begin to emerge as a member of the offense as well, catching a respectable 23 balls for 244 yards and 2 ReTDs, and taking 21 hand-offs for 112 yards on the ground and a RuTD. Great in space with good size, he could be in for a bigger role this year.

Hasise Dubois - Jr - 6'3" 210 lbs - The true junior has good size and solid experience, having earned five starts as a sophomore, and appearing in 7 other games. He had 16 receptions for 120 yards last year with a TD against Pitt. Likely to inherit Doni Dowling's starting role.

Terrell Jana - So - 6'0" 185 lbs - Earned a spot on the 2-deep as a true freshman last year, even getting a start vs UNC when injuries occurred ahead of him on the depth chart. Only had 2 catches on the year, but seems to have earned the trust of the coaches. Has a knack for getting open despite the lack of top-end size or speed. Role may depend on his ability to develop a chemistry with QB Perkins.

De'Vante Cross - RS So - 6'2" 200 lbs - Cross is an interesting case. He's an impressive athlete, but has spent his two years in Charlottesville as a jack of all trades, seeing time last year at QB (5/13 for 27 yards), WR (1 catch for 8 yards), and CB (3 tackles). There's an argument to be made that he could be dangerous if given the time to truly focus on only one position. But as is always the question with athletic HS QBs turned into college wideouts... "How are his hands?"

Cole Blackman - RS So - 6'1" 210 lbs - Lost last year to injury after showing promise as a true freshman. TBD how close to full speed he'll be this fall, but if he's ready, he could get into the mix at slot receiver. The kid has excellent hands and a great work ethic.

Chuck Davis - RS So - 5'9" 175 lbs - The speedster won the lottery, making him a feel good story in the locker room, but still, likely to be limited to special teams.

Ben Hogg - Sr - 5'10" 170 lbs - Injuries continue to limit his potential, and unlikely to contribute this year either, which is a shame because the former walk-on has really set a standard for work ethic.

Tight Ends

Evan Butts - RS Sr - 6'4" 250 lbs - Evan is a veteran presence on the offense, and was a big piece in last year's record-setting passing attack, chipping in with 32 passes for 266 yards and 2 TDs.

Tanner Cowley - RS Jr - 6'4" 235 lbs - He hasn't been a major factor yet in his career, only catching two passes last year. He'll spend this year backing up Butts, though with Richard Burney off to the D-Line, he may have more opportunity this year. So long as Butts is healthy, however, Cowley will likely continue to wait in the wings. He'll be a good pass catcher when his turn does come, though his blocking may still need work.

Who's New?

Wide Receivers

Riah Burton - RS Fr - 6'0" 180 lbs - solid size and great speed. Has good long term potential as a WR, though may be limited to special teams for now.

Darnell Pratt - RS Fr - 6'2" 180 lbs - He has good physical gifts, but has a long way to go with route running and his hands to get to ACC level. Unlikely to make a dent in the offensive rotation this year.

Shawn Smith - RS Fr - 5'11" 160 lbs - The Georgian was recruited as a slot receiver, though very likely he'll be moved to defensive back to add to the nickel/dime depth there.

Tavares Kelly - Fr  - 5'8" 160 lbs - Possibly the heir to Oz, the three star Floridian is lightning fast and hard to get in the open field. Has a shot to earn backup minutes on the long side of the field or as a return man.

Ugo Obasi - Fr - 6'1" 170 lbs - The three star from Maryland will work to find a role on the 2-deep, likely on the outside, or on special teams this year, though is unlikely to make an immediate impact.

Joseph White - Fr - 6'2" 175 lbs - The three star athlete out of Virginia Beach could show up either on the WR depth chart or at Safety, TBD at this point.

Billy Kemp - Fr - 5'9" 170 lbs - A three star prospect out of the 804, Kemp faces a major uphill climb to relevance in the offense, and while we're not discounting production down the road, likely see this year limited to special teams or a redshirt.

Wooby Theork - Fr - 5'10" 163 lbs - The three star from Florida is unlikely to make an impact on the offense this year, either bound for special teams or a redshirt.

Preseason MVP

Olamide Zaccheus - A no-brainer, Oz's 85 catches last year were record setting for UVA. Bronco called him the best player in the spring. He's the linch-pin of this offense and well be a key weapon for new QB Perkins.

Breakout Candidate

Joe Reed - He's one of those Swiss Army Knife kinds of players, who's just dangerous when you find a way to put the ball in his hands. We don't know what the run/pass balance is going to look like with a dual threat QB under center, but I have a feeling that however Anae schemes the offense, Reed is going to be a dominant piece of it.

 

A Stab at the UofR Game Depth Chart

WR(X)

Hasise Dubois

De'Vonte Cross 

TE

Evan Butts

Tanner Cowley 

WR(Y)

Terrell Jana

Cole Blackman

WR(H)

Olamide Zaccheus

WR(Z)

Joe Reed

Tavares Kelly


Grade: C+

Final Thoughts

Oz is one of the best pass catchers in the ACC, and fits perfectly with the speed-over-size emphasis in today's spread game. After him, however, there's just not a lot that's going to scare opponents, not yet anyways. Butts is a plus target at TE, but our offense has yet to feature him like it should. Reed has proven to be dangerous if the ball can get into his hands on the move, but will Perkins be able to get him the ball often enough? Jana and Dubuis have the potential to be solid-to-good, but neither have yet to demonstrate that top-level combinations of size, speed, or hands, to really be game changers on offense this year. We've already talked about breakout potential from Reed, and I'm hopeful Duboise can put his size to good use. But for now, there's just too few proven pieces for me to have too much confidence, especially since they've only had this past offseason to develop any rhythm with Perkins, there's a concerning lack of size across the board, and the new Spread-to-Run offense may make inconsistent use of the talent we do have. 

This article contains the tags:

Football, 2018 Preview, Offense