By this point we’ve all heard the remarkable stat that not a single Jayhawk wide receiver caught a touchdown in 2012. In fact, the Jayhawks only had 7 total receiving touchdowns the entire season (4 to RB’s and 3 to TE’s).
The leading returning receiver from last year’s team was actually a running back last year. So it should be no surprise that Tony Pierson spend the majority of the spring lining up as a wide receiver. During the spring, Pierson took about 85% of his snaps as a wide receiver, and while the general assumption was that percentage would drop slightly when the season started, at this point it seems Pierson will enter the year as one of the Jayhawks premier receivers. He is listed on the depth chart at the “F” position, meaning he likely won’t be lining up on the outside but rather shifted around either out of the backfield or in the slot. This is a similar role that West Virginia’s Tevon Austin, the 8th overall pick in April’s NFL Draft, played last season for the Mountaineers.
On the outside everything starts with Justin McCay. The Bishop Miege product had an incredible spring and showed off his highlight real catching ability hauling in several remarkable passes during the spring game. He has both the physical skills and personality of a marquee wide receiver. He’s cocky, confident, and channels his days as a linebacker in high school to be a force as a blocker down the field. In other words: this dude is the kind of stud we have rarely seen at Kansas.
Hopefully lining up opposite McCay will be Miami of Ohio senior transfer Nick Harwell. The second-leading receiver in the country in 2011, Harwell would be the Jayhawks most decorated if his eligibility is granted for 2013. If he is finally cleared, the combination of Harwell, McCay, and Pierson would be a dynamic group of playmakers.
Beyond these 3 there is still plenty of depth. Junior Andrew Turzilli was the Jayhawks second most productive wide receiver from 2012 behind the graduated Kale Pick averaging 16.9 yards per catch. The Jayhawks coaching staff is expecting big thing from sophomore Tre’ Parmalee. Another Bishop Miege product, Parmalee has big-play ability both as a wide receiver and return man. Though it’s hard to say how much he will see the field, especially early, look for the staff to find ways to get Parmalee involved in the offense.
Freshman Ishmael Hyman is also looked at as a player that can make an immediate impact.
Senior Josh Ford is another guy I’ll have my eye on during the fall. Though the media’s portion of practice is relatively short, I never saw one player draw the ire of Coach Weis more than Ford. This means the staff has high hopes for Ford or they simply would not have given him this much attention. Ford looked good during the spring and could fill an even bigger role for the 2013 squad if Harwell’s arrival is delayed.
And let’s not forget about JUCO transfers Rodriguez Coleman, and Mark Thomas. We have yet to see any of these guys on the field so there is no telling what kind of impact will be made but Coach Weis was excited about all of these guys when introducing them to the media in late winter.
Much like other positions for Kansas this fall we just have to wait and see what happens when these guys get on the field. What we do know is that the talent pool at wide receiver is significantly improved along with the guy delivering the ball.
And as for that wide receiver touchdown drought? I’d put money on the combination of Jake Heaps and the quality wide receivers in the house to end that streak on September 7.