August 11, 2014

Wahooze Booze -- The 2014 Wide Receivers

Keeon Johnson: stud?

Kendall: When talking about the 2014 wide receivers, I think the best place to start is a quick look at last year’s stats for the guys returning in 2014…

Darius Jennings -- 38 receptions / 340 yards / 3 touchdowns
Keeon Johnson -- 20 / 282 / 1
Kyle Dockins -- 8 / 96 / 0
Caanan Severin -- 5 / 43 / 0
Miles Gooch -- 2 / 25 / 0

And that’s it and that’s all.

Tim Smith took his pedestrian 26 / 389 / 1 line off into the sunset, “The Squirrel” (E.J. Scott) took his 3 / 30 / 0 line to Wake Forest, and Dominique Terrell took his 14 / 107 / 0 to a weird senior season redshirt.

So add up the returning receivers, and you’ve got 73 receptions for 786 yards and 4 touchdowns. I’ll hit you right up the nose with some smelling salts by telling you that in 2013, FIVE individual receivers in the ACC tallied more catches, TWELVE individual receivers in the ACC piled up more yardage, and SIXTEEN individual receivers in the ACC scored more touchdowns.

In a word, our 2014 receiving corps appears to be awful.

Of course, that doesn’t take into account the presumed improvement of would-be go-to wideout Keeon Johnson, nor does it account for the addition of ├╝ber-recruit Jamil Kamara, nor does it account for the post-redshirt arrival of Andre Levrone, nor does it account for the addition by subtraction of seeing dropmasters Smith and Terrell cycle off the roster, nor does it account for hopeful improvement under center as Greyson Lambert takes the reins from David Twatford. And hey, it can’t get any worse!

So let’s do what we do, and uncork a player-by-player look at the 2014 wide receiving corps…

Oh, and by the way, the metaphor we’re using for the wideouts is… drumroll… wine. Lots of different varieties (varietals?), ya dig? How very UVA of us.



(Wine descriptions courtesy of typesofwine.org)


Keeon Johnson: Champagne
By far the most luxurious drink of all is Champagne, a well-known product of France. Champagne is savored in moments of celebration, and the prices reach the levels of its worldwide fame.
Kendall: I love his size (6-3, 210) and in a season of horrific drops, he seemed bizarrely sure-handed. To me, he looked like a true go-to wide receiver, the likes of which we haven’t seen since Dontrelle Inman and Kris Burd. Of course, he’s young, and OF COURSE the coaching staff didn’t see fit to put him on the field all that much. If they can get their heads out of their collective asses, stick Johnson in as the starting split end and allow him to play through whatever mistakes he makes without going to some asinine WR rotation… then we might just have a plus-level player on our hands. Of course, as with many things regarding the UVA football team this season, that will require a very specific aligning of the stars. But look, if you want to take a leap of faith on Greyson Lambert and Smoke Mizzell, I think it’s an even easier leap of faith on Keeon Johnson, because we’ve actually SEEN him play well on the field. If Johnson can get that regular playing time in a starting role and Lambert locks onto him as the #1 target in the passing game, I could see a 70 catch / 800 yard / 5 TD type of season in the offing. The kid’s only a sophomore, and wouldn’t it be great to have him develop quickly, like Burd did five years ago?


Pierce: Johnson’s definitely already been pegged as the potential go-to guy in the wide receiver group - and that’s not without reason. Anyone with eyes could tell he looked the part last year as a frosh, but as Kendall said, the playing time was shuffled among the numerous other guys attempting to catch passes. Keeon seemed to actually be up for the job last year, so unless there’s a regression (always a chance with our coaching track record!), it makes sense to think he’ll step into the go-to role.


Jamil Kamara: Riesling
Riesling wine comes with appetizing flavors of lime, apple, and pear, combined in a crisp blend. The grapes are famously grown in Germany, but there are also some producers in France and New York. This wine goes nicely with poultry and pork dishes, especially ones with a spicy twist.
Kendall: No offense, but I think Hoofans have gotten a little bit stupid during Mike London’s coaching tenure. Expectations for true freshmen wide receivers not of the elite 5-star variety need to be tempered and suppressed, yet most of Wahoo Nation seems to be looking for Jamil Kamara to stroll in and take over as the starting flanker and dominate. I’m not seeing it. Kamara is an athletic 4-star WR, with great potential, and I’m sure he’ll become a very good player for UVA at some point down the line. I’m just not expecting it in 2014. In fact, I wish London would redshirt the kid. But we already know he won’t do that, so we’ll stupidly waste Kamara’s eventual 5th year in the program [2018] in order to see what he can provide to an already-crowded wide receiving corps as a raw true freshman [2014]. The fact that Kamara chose to wear #1 is a giant red flag to me, I’m not going to lie. He’s assuming that he’s going to step right in and be our best receiving weapon. I like the confidence, but how will he handle it if and when a better, more seasoned, more developed wide receiver (Severin, Levrone, or Jennings) takes that flanker spot and keeps Kamara on the bench? Or worse, how will he handle it if London chooses him (757 bias, remember?) and lets him play through his mistakes while more-deserving players seethe about it? There are a lot of landmines for Jamil Kamara’s true freshman season, and navigating that minefield is not going to be easy. The potential is immense, but so is the potential for disaster. [As a so-called ‘hater’ who is just waiting for the other shoe to drop and for Mike London to get canned, I’m also prepared to see Jamil Kamara leave the program after just one season.]


Pierce: To be fair, Kamara is easily the best wide receiver recruit the Hoos have landed in ages. He’s got all the tools to be a star - but it’s still all potential. Considering how other four-star wideouts have fared under London & Co though, I think it definitely is best to watch Kamara actually catch a football in a game before throwing on the hype. (Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me for the past decade of mediocre football, shame on...ugh yeah I guess that’s shame on me still). Though it’s not like Kamara has to answer for the previous guys’ failure to live up to expectations. He honestly could be really really good -- it’s clear when you watch his videos from camp circuits and even this summer’s brief collection of practice highlights. However, it’ll be tough for Jamil to live up to the hype though -- both because of the pieces around him (unproven QB and an o-line in shambles) and the crowded WR depth chart. The latter is a good problem to have. The former is not.


Darius Jennings: Cabernet Sauvignon
This sophisticated French wine is a mix of Cabernet Franc and Merlot, with a full-bodied taste of currant and bell pepper. It is one of the most famous types of wines in the world, especially among the French, Australians, Californians, and Chileans. Cabernet Sauvignon pairs perfectly with meat dishes.
Kendall: Dropsie Jennings, back for more Keystone Cop madness. Seriously, Jennings would be one of the better wide receivers in UVA history if his hands weren’t made from quickcrete-dipped styrofoam. They say he’s had a vision problem that is now fixed (don’t ask me how it took four freaking years for the coaching staff to figure that one out), so I guess we’ll see. I’ve always loved Jennings’ ability to get downfield… so IF Greyson Lambert has time in the pocket to deliver a deep pass, and IF Jennings can actually catch said deep pass, then we might see some big plays out of him during his senior season. To me, those are two really big IFs, and I’m not holding my breath. It’s not a leap of faith to say that DJ is one of our three best receivers, and as such, will play a big role this season. Just… what will he do with that role, and with the targets he receives? Catch the damn ball, Darius.


Pierce: I was so stoked when DJ committed to the Hoos way back when. Clearly, it shows how ridiculous and worthless following football recruiting can be (not like I’m going to stop). Jennings could have always been one of the better receivers on the team, but he’s been plagued with an inability to convert the big play. He’s quick. He finds space. He runs a solid route. But man oh man, when I think of his time here, all I can picture are the drops -- a vivid picture of a night game at home vs UNC comes to mind in particular. As Kendall notes, there’s good reason to think DJ will run with the first group of receivers this year, though -- let’s hope he makes the most of it as his career wraps up in Cville.


Kyle Dockins: Fortified Wine
Fortified wine is a wine that has been blended with a liquor. The liquor most often used for this is Brandy which is essentially just distilled wine. This gives fortified wines a distinct flavor and a higher alcohol content than normal wine – usually at least %15 ABV.
Pierce: Oh Jake McGee, where oh where have you gone? Florida? Oh, word. Good on you, Jake McGee. But who does that leave to step into the role of “big guy in space in the middle of the field?” Kyle Dockins - a 6-3, 210 redshirt sophomore from 757 land. Dockins started 4 games last year and caught a handful of passes in most of the games. His time on the roster has followed a somewhat McGee-like assignment of part-tight end/part-wide receiver, but he’s seem to have it figured out as a bigger wide receiver, who’s certainly asked to block often in the running game. He wasn’t a heralded recruit by any means, but most Wahoo fans would say his first season on the field was a pleasant surprise. For a fanbase desperate to see guys actually catch a football, we’ll take what we can get. If Dockins continues to improve, he’ll be involved for sure -- plus, this season he’s got a new quarterback tossing it to him -- which should certainly be beneficial.

 
Kendall: When London recruited Dockins, I remember saying something to the effect of, “oh, cool, we need more tight ends, and ‘move’ tight ends - Jimmy Graham / Jordan Cameron types - are the wave of the future, I like this.” Skip ahead a few years, and here’s Dockins, a big-bodied guy with some wheels and hands, working exclusively out of the slot. He’s listed as a wide receiver, but don’t let that fool you… he’s a move tight end. And that’s cool, because I like bigger guys in the slot, smashing through traffic and blocking the edge for the run game. Dockins was listed as the starting slot receiver on the post-Spring depth chart, and I think that holds true for the balance of the season ahead. He should also be able to provide a nice target in the red zone.


Caanan Severin: Merlot
If you are not sure whether you like red wine, let aside what type of red wine, Merlot is a safe bet! This type of wine is very soft, with a mild mix of plum and blackberry flavors. All you need to do is add a box of delicious chocolates, and you got yourself the perfect mix! In terms of food, Merlot pairs well with just about any dish, especially with desserts.
Kendall: Holy crap, he’s already a junior? Stupid burned redshirts. 2014 should be Severin’s sophomore season of eligibility, sheesh. Anyway, like seemingly every other UVA wideout, Severin is listed at 6-2, 210. I like all of the big receivers, but at this point in his career I think it’s fair to wonder if Severin is “just a guy.” He failed to really make hay in the Spring, and emerged listed behind Dockins in the slot on the post-Spring depth chart. Last season’s five catches is something to build on, I suppose. I just don’t know that Severin brings anything special to the table. He should clearly be behind a handful of other guys in the pecking order. Specifically, I think Andre Levrone rises up to eat Severin’s lunch.


Pierce: Severin’s a JUNIOR? Good lord our coaches are terrible at roster management. I hope those five catches last year were worth the experience of live playing time as a frosh (they weren’t). There’s not a lot to go off of, obviously, when talking about what to expect from Caanan this year - but certainly he’s got the potential to contribute. The more I write about this year’s WR unit, the more I think “Hey, that’s a guy who actually catches the ball.” Maybe Caanan fits in there, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Andre Levrone: Chardonnay
Chardonnay is an exquisite white wine, produced mostly in Burgundy in France, but also on the coast of California. A glass of Chardonnay comes with a refreshing taste of oak and citrus fruit and hints of apple, pear, and melon. The delicious wine is a great accompaniment to seafood dishes, poultry, and pork.
Pierce: Keep an eye on Levrone for this year’s Keeon Johnson “Guy Who Actually Contributes as a Wideout Award.” Levrone redshirted last year as a first year -- because despite not getting much production from the position, there were plenty of guys listed as wide receivers on the roster. Anyhoo -- he’s got decent size and wheels and from all accounts I hear, could easily be the top contributor of the new crop of receivers this year. Levrone was a middle-of-the-road type of recruit, though out of a powerhouse program (Good Counsel), so he might be a bit of surprise to Hoo fans if he outperforms a guy like Kamara, but I expect it to happen. Hell, let’s take the optimistic approach and assume both he and Kamara roll out with Keeon as the best WR unit we’ve had under Mike London. Or, you know, could be more of the same.


Kendall: Levrone is another big receiver recruited during the London regime. At 6-2, 210 (noticing a theme with those dimensions?), he’ll have an advantage over many defensive backs. Post-Spring, Levrone was listed as Johnson’s backup at split end, and I think that’s a nice fit. Levrone showed what he could do with a very good Spring Game, and if he can translate those flashes on the practice field to production in actual games, then he’ll be an asset to the offense. He’s a reserve in 2014, but a reserve with some real upside.


Miles Gooch: Dessert Wine
These are sweet wines and as the name suggests, they are generally served with dessert. A rule of thumb for choosing a wine is that it must be sweeter than the dessert being eaten.
Kendall: The Goocher has just always been in over his head. He was a quarterback in high school, and never magically developed the movement skills he needed in order to be able to play wide receiver at the college level. Still, he’s a very fan-friendly, try-hard type of guy, and is a stellar blocker at the WR position. I hope his senior season sees him targeted a few times in the red zone, as I’d love to see him leave UVA with a touchdown during his last year. As for the depth chart at wide receiver… Virginia is in trouble if Gooch ends up playing any sort of significant role this season. Johnson, Kamara, Dockins, Severin, and Levrone need to be good enough to keep Gooch glued to the bench.


Pierce: Gooch seems to be one of those guys that’s good at getting open. He regularly looks like a favorite target of the QBs in spring games and such, but it hasn’t translated to much during the seasons he’s been here. There’s no reason to expect him to start much at the position this season, but I’m sure he’ll find some time on the field as we cycle guys in and out -- especially if the offense is a disaster again. I like Gooch, but I do hope the talent around him in the unit performs up to their potential -- which would be bad news for Gooch’s playing time.


On the Wide Receivers as a unit, and general thoughts about the position for 2014...

Kendall: As a unit, I like what we have percolating here. Lots of bigger bodies who can move, it all makes sense for an offense that will go very ball control. With a bad offensive line, quick passes to the primary receiver are required, and these receivers should excel with those. What I don’t see here, however, is a whole lot of downfield explosion. Who other than Darius Jennings can offer the type of threat that can blow the roof off of a defense? This is college football --- big play passing should be part of the formula. But it’s not, not at UVA. I find that to be frustrating as hell. So while I think these wide receivers will be fine - and I’m excited about Keeon Johnson’s potential as a go-to guy - the group reads to me like a unit that will be limited by its own lack of variety.

Pierce: Every unit on offense is drastically affected by the quality of o-line play, obviously. If Greyson has enough time and the running game fills out enough of the game plan, then we should see more production from the receivers than before. That is a huge if, though. I like Johnson. I like Levrone. I bet Jennings has some good games this year. We’ll need a huge jump from the whole unit though to see many Ws.



3 comments:

  1. Too bad Terrell is red-shirting. I would have liked to see what flavor of MD20-20 or Ripple you guys gave him.

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    1. Spoiler alert! We're saving all of the bum wines (Mad Dog, Cisco, Night Train, Thunderbird, Wild Irish Rose, etc.) for the offensive line. FRIDAY!!

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    2. Nice. I thought for sure that would reserved for the coaching staff.

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