GVSU confident in WRs despite inexperience
UPDATE (Sept. 2): GVSU moves junior tight end Jamie Potts to wide receiver.
A look through Grand Valley State University’s 2014 media guide – particularly the depth chart and player profile sections – reveals a trio of noteworthy stats about the team’s receiving corps:
(1) Brandan Green, who racked up 53 receptions for 1,210 yards and six touchdowns last season, graduated and is no longer available, (2) the 11 true wide receivers on this year’s squad have combined to haul in 80 career receptions for 1,467 yards and 10 touchdowns, and (3) eight of those 11 have never caught a pass in a Laker uniform.
Career totals and similar stats, however, have a tendency to be misleading when it comes to powerhouse programs. No. 2 GVSU, which hasn’t suffered more than three losses in a season since 2000, is no stranger to operating with an established ‘next-man-up’ philosophy.
It’s not a matter of who, but a matter of how: How effective will these 11 receivers be in 2014?
“The fun thing for us is we’re very deep at that position,” offensive coordinator Tim Morrison said. “It’s probably one of the deepest positions we have on our team, especially on the offensive side of the ball, and so we’re really trying to figure out what the specific goal may be of each guy.
“I’ll be honest we may not have one superstar so to speak, but we’re as deep and as good at that position as we’ve been in a long time.”
On paper it’s an unproven position, but the wideouts have certainly proved themselves on the field this summer to their coaches and teammates. No one is doubting the offense inside the Laker locker room.
Such confidence could be attributed to senior quarterback Heath Parling, four versatile running backs who all have 1,000-plus career rushing yards, or junior tight end Jamie Potts, a two-sport All-American who returns after leading the team with 54 receptions and 11 touchdowns in 2013.
Or, it’s because this group of wideouts has more talent than some might suspect, and it starts with a pair of senior starters in Darryl Pitts (Detroit, Mich.) and Keontre’ Miskel (Muskegon, Mich.).
“In the passing game, we can definitely make things happen,” Miskel said. “It should be real fun. We want to run the ball, but when our number’s called up we’ve got to make big plays and I think we have the skill to do that. When the ball is in the air – with our receivers – it will be entertaining.”
Miskel may not have the stats to scare opposing defenses yet, but he's been receiving high praise all summer.
Pitts said Miskel is having the best camp of any receiver on the team. Parling said Miskel was having “the best camp out of anyone” and compared him to Green, who was an under-the-radar receiver at this time last year.
“One of the things that our kids really embrace here is having a good fall camp and the importance of our preseason leading up to once we start the season,” Morrison said. “Keontre’ has really embraced that – similar to Brandan Green last year – that’s exactly the same thing.
“When you look on paper at his 2013 stats, you think he’s just another guy coming back, but with the type of preseason camp that he’s had and the way he’s approached things on a daily basis here, we’re certainly excited in terms of getting him to carry that into the season.”
Meanwhile, Pitts started all but one game during GVSU’s 12-3 campaign in 2013 and ranked third on the team in catches (30), receiving yards (525) and touchdowns (five). He was a chain-mover, as 25 of his receptions resulted in first downs.
Sophomore Joe Robbins, who was an Associated Press All-State First Team (D3/D4) running back at Petoskey High School, is listed as the third starting receiver. Robbins did not have a single catch for the Lakers in 2013, but was an effective blocker (6-3, 205). He’ll be more involved this season while lining up in the slot.
Junior running back Kirk Spencer could also be lined up in the slot. He and senior tight end Joe Wirth could get a few more looks from Parling after combining for nine receiving touchdowns in 2013.
From there, the receiving end of the passing game seems to be up in the air, as the other eight wideouts are still jockeying for position.
“The rest of them – it’s encouraging and discouraging," said GVSU associate head coach/wide receivers coach Jack Ginn. "No one’s really separated themselves but all of them can play."
That list includes transfers Kameel Jackson (University of Oklahoma), Matt Williams (Northern Illinois University) and James White (Bowling Green State University). They will be competing alongside GVSU seniors Steve Eleazer and Justice Wright, sophomore Troy Sassack and redshirt freshmen Brandon Bean and Urston Smith for playing time this season.
It will be interesting to see who makes the roster for the team's season opener at Azusa Pacific University on Sept. 4, but one thing is certain: the Lakers aren't worried about it.
“I’m confident,” Pitts said. “We’re very deep and we’ve got a lot of weapons.”