Top WKU football position battles: wide receiver

6 07 2010

Part two of what will be a three-part look at the top position battles for the Western Kentucky football team heading into fall camp next month. 

Today – we’ll take a look at the wide receiver position. 

Starting wide receivers:

Favorites: Quinterrance Cooper (5-11, 194, sr.), Willie McNeal (5-10, 158, rFr.)

Also under consideration: Marcus Vasquez (6-1, 191, so.), Derrius Brooks (5-10, 179, jr.), Jamarielle Brown (6-1, 170 rFr.).

The wild card of the entire Western Kentucky offense this season will be who (outside of tight end Jack Doyle) will step up and catch passes this season?

Redshirt freshman Willie McNeal stole the show at this spot during spring practice, capping things off by being named the MVP of the spring game. Quite undersized at this point, McNeal was able to make plays all spring long with his legs – both in the run and pass game. He showed great vision and ability to run after the catch – in other words, he looked like a player who knew how to make plays. Something this offense has drastically been without for the past two seasons. He also showed the ability to go up and catch the ball in traffic – but at just 158 pounds, will he be able to battle with the opposition’s top corner game in and game out? We’ll see.

Quinterrance Cooper

 

The rest of this group had a pretty rocky spring.

Dropped balls seemed to be a huge problem entering the workouts and continued to be one when spring ball closed.

So, outside of McNeal, who steps up? 

Cooper is the veteran here and has the most experience – but he had an incredibly unimpressive 2009 season, racking up just 235 receiving yards in 11 starts. That has to change. Cooper really needs a big camp from a leadership standpoint, because Jake Gaebler’s graduation left this group without a natural leader. He’s not going to break a whole lot of big plays at this level, but Cooper is more than capable of being a legit possession receiver that moves the chains.

Vasquez really seemed to be adjusting to the switch from quarterback to receiver at the end of last season and had some up and down moments this spring – this could be a breakout year for him at this spot if he can continue to learn the position, because he definitely has the size and athleticism to make an impact here. He didn’t impress me as much during spring ball as I thought he might, but then again, who am I anyway?

Brooks, once again, is another wild card. Arguably the fastest end-to-end player on the team, Brooks seemed to disappear from time to time last season – and had some trouble hanging onto the football this spring. He’s not the biggest guy in the world, but he possess raw speed – something that will always him a chance. He’ll get his chance – but can he make the most of it? 

Of all the players that redshirted last season, Brown was the one that impressed me the most. He was constantly finding his way into the endzone on the scout team last year and really showed a great deal of confidence in doing so. His biggest issue is his size – as he’d rail thin. So thin in fact that 170 pounds might be a stretch. He’ll have to put a ton of work in this summer physically and follow it up with a strong camp – if he does so, he’ll definitely have a chance to get on the field week in and week out.

Also, like at every other position, don’t count out any incoming freshmen either – that means both former Madison Southern wideout Rico Brown as well as Ft. Myers, Fla.’s Joel German. 

Brass Tacks: Someone outside of Bobby Rainey and Jack Doyle have to make plays for this offense – or things will get ugly. McNeal is a unique player that should give Taggart and company the ability to be creative with his athleticism – but I’m not convinced that he can be the top dog here. The No. 1 receiver competition is as wide open as anything on the field right now for WKU, and is maybe the most unsettled position. I’d look for Cooper to likely be the guy early on based on the fact that he’s battle tested – but can he hang on to it? This will definitely be a spot to monitor throughout all of fall camp.

… On Wednesday: Defensive Backfield

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3 responses

7 07 2010
Scott

Thank you for the informative & insightful articles about WKU football. I really enjoyed reading the QB blog yesterday & WR one today. Would you consider doing one on every position? I’m assuming your 3rd article will be DB’s & I’m looking forward to it, however, it would be great if you would breakdown every position.
Thank you.

7 07 2010
Billy

Who is the new mens asst bball coach

8 07 2010
Nick Baumgardner

Scott, we’ll definitely get more into preseason football in the coming weeks on the blog – as practice is basically a mere month away. So keep an eye out for that.

Billy – you’re not beating around the bush are you!? I like it.
There have been an abundance of rumors and speculation that’s flown around about this job – some of which you may have heard, some of which you may not have (honestly quite a bit more than I’d have ever expected for a vacant men’s assistant job). I can tell you this much. Nothing’s been made official yet, and as soon as it does – and all the human resources situations that follow are taken care of – you’ll all be the first to know. But for right now, I can’t/won’t publish rumors.

Thanks guys, have a great day.

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