Saturday, August 28, 2010

Position Breakdown 2010: Wide Receivers

Returning: Jamel Hamler, Devon Wylie, Rashad Evans, A.J. Johnson, Matt Lindsey, J.J. Stallworth, Matthew De Los Santos, Taylor Stewart

Newcomers: Victor Dean, Isaiah Burse, Josh Harper, Jalen Saunders, Davon Dunn, Alex Jefferies

Lost: Seyi Ajirotutu (Chargers), Chastin West (Packers), Marlon Moore (Dolphins), Darren Newborn

Jamel Hamler: Peanut butter Melly time
Jr, 6'2", 205
San Leandro (San Leandro HS)
As predicted, Jamel Hamler busted onto the scene last season after missing the previous year with eligibility issues. On a receiving corps that featured three NFL-bound seniors, Hamler was second with 503 yards and 5 touchdowns. The later Fresno State got in its season, the more Hamler blossomed into one of Ryan Colburn's favorite targets, and it was easy to see why with the extra effort and awareness he displayed in the thrilling last-second touchdown catch at Illinois. The biggest difference for Hamler now will be adjusting to being the focus of opposing defensive backfields. But he reportedly shed some weight and upped his speed to prepare.

DaCo on Hamler: Hamler is easily one of the best receivers in the conference, if not multiple other conferences. Add to that the plethora of weapons to complement him on this team, and his ceiling raises even higher. That said, he will be targeted greatly, allowing those other receivers to steal some thunder. Still, Hamler is one of the best, most well-rounded receivers Fresno State has had in awhile.

FSDogs1 on Hamler: I thought Hamler was plenty fast enough last season, so if he truly has improved speed he could really be scary. I expected him to get off to a running start in fall camp but he got a case of the dropsies for a few days. But there's no reason to doubt he'll be ready to improve on last season's stats.

Devon Wylie: Defenses, prepared to be wizard-ed
Sr, 5'9", 170
Roseville (Granite Bay HS)

While Jamel Hamler is the expected go-to receiver, there's no reason Devon Wylie can't challenge for that title. His speed (the fastest Bulldog ever with a 4.25 40-yard dash) makes him one of the toughest mismatches in the nation at any position. With his acceleration, there simply is no way to cover him in the first 10 yards of his route. And if he gets a defender biting with the slightest false step, forget about it (see 70-yard touchdown vs. Wisconsin last season). Wylie, or "Wiggles" as receivers coach Keith Williams calls him, has just one thing to overcome -- injuries. He's been injured for parts of all three seasons as a Bulldog and needs to avoid that to reach his senior season potential. Wylie was limited to just 17 catches in 10 games last season for 259 yards and 4 scores. Like Hamler, Wylie is a legit NFL prospect.

DaCo on Wylie: The acceleration and agility from this man is like few things you'll ever see. He has impeccable body control, and has been blessed with supreme athletic ability. He is a touchdown threat on literally every route he runs, and has an entertaining tendency to jello-leg defenders along the way. A healthy Devon Wylie is lethal Devon Wylie.

FSDogs1 on Wylie: His small stature and blurring speed make this Star Wars buff a fan favorite. Let's just hope the fans get to see a healthy Wylie play in each game this season. Oh, and watch for him on the end around.

Rashad Evans: RE: the secret is out
R-So, 5'9", 180
San Jose (James Logan HS)

Shhhh. Don't tell the "experts" writing the college football mags, but the Bulldogs have a super secret weapon no one is talking about. Rashad Evans, who impressed as a possession receiver and return man as a true freshman (think crucial first down grab on sideline at UCLA and punt return TD at La Tech), is back in the rotation after redshirting last season. Evans had 21 catches for 232 yards his freshman year. He battled injury last fall, but looked like yet another go-to guy at times this fall with more speed (4.35 40-yard) and a more muscular frame (he was a bit on the fragile side as a freshman). Evans looks to be a large part of the offense both as a receiver and a "wildcat" quarterback, and has arguably the best hands on the team.

DaCo on Evans: Shad has WAC offensive p.o.y. ability -- this year. That's not a prediction, but a statement on his versatility and ridiculous talent. How has he become so forgotten? He is lightning in a bottle. He has great hands, gets into open space, makes tough catches in traffic and runs the wildcat like nobody's business. In a nutshell, I think he's really good.

FSDogs1 on Evans: Together, Evans and Wylie will bring back memories of the 2001 "Smurfs" at Fresno State with WRs Rodney Wright and Charles Smith. Only they're both better than Smith, and time will tell how they compare to Wright, the school's all-time leader in career yards.

A.J. Johnson: Johnson ready to be remembered
R-Fr, 6'0", 180
Bakersfield (Highland HS)

With all the incoming talent at receiver, A.J. Johnson has been somewhat overshadowed. But let's not forget, before last season Pat Hill said Johnson could be the team's biggest breakout player. That didn't happen, as he ended up redshirting, but good things are still expected. The mystery right now, as is the case with a couple others at the position, is where he falls on the depth chart. He had a solid fall camp showing and should find his way onto the field. That said, he seems to have more of a connection with Derek Carr (a fellow Bako buddy) than Ryan Colburn.

DaCo on Johnson: Johnson quietly goes about his business, and has been a forgotten man after greyshirting a couple of years ago. Johnson has clear-cut speed, yet it is still deceptive for defenders. He is very good on go and post routes and definitely has a place on this team.

FSDogs1 on Johnson: As good as some of the newbies have looked, Johnson will have to turn up the dial a notch to earn a spot on the depth chart behind the three starters.

Matt Lindsey: Lindsey proves he is 'hair' to stay
So, 6'0", 200
Clovis (Clovis HS)

OK, OK, so Matt Lindsey stood out with his leaping ability and hands during his redshirt year, then seemed to regress last season in practice, and now is shining again in fall camp. The problem (for Lindsey) is the Bulldogs have an almost ridiculous amount of depth at the position now. But Lindsey offers characteristics that should help him get playing time -- size, ability to go up and pull down the ball and sticky hands. He'll be competing with A.J. Johnson, J.J. Stallworth and the newcomers for valuable reps. Oh, and he has a luscious head of hair on him.

DaCo on Lindsey: To avoid a future on the bench, Lindsey needed a breakout camp this year. Safe to say that was the case. His hands and general athleticism were never questioned, but his progression as a receiver was. This camp, Lindsey stole the show on occasions with surprising and truly impressive explosiveness and top end speed, putting himself right back in the WR mix.
FSDogs1 on Lindsey: I really like Lindsey as a possession receiver this year -- a guy who can be potentially be relied on to show sure hands in pressure third down situations. But he hasn't yet recorded a catch in a real game, so he still must prove he can fill that type of role if he wants to play this year.

J.J. Stallworth: A S-tall mountain to climb
Jr, 5'11", 185
Sacramento (Grant Union HS)

The younger bro of NFL standout Donte Stallworth, J.J. Stallworth has been competing for playing time behind an array of talented receivers the past few years. And that hasn't changed. He hasn't shown the every-rep consistency yet, but made strides in spring and fall as far as making big grabs in traffic. It's still unclear what type of niche he can fill for this team, and being that there are so many quality candidates for playing time, he may have to compete just for a spot on the travel squad.

DaCo on Stallworth: Stallworth is certainly a quality receiver who can make plays, but he is in a mix of crown jewels right now. His knowledge of the offense, work ethic and pure desire to play is what keeps him progressing, but it will be tough for him to earn a big role. That said, Stally has surprised the defense at times this year, and can be a solid possession guy.

FSDogs1 on Stallworth: There are faster receivers, bigger receivers, ones with better hands and better route runners -- which means Stallworth will have to outwork guys to earn a role.

Victor Dean: It's not easy being Dean
Fr, 6'6", 200
San Diego (Lincoln HS)

The most exciting of the incoming freshmen is Victor Dean, simply because he offers a unique element to the game with his height. Believed to be the tallest receiver in school history, Dean is slated to play right away and is flatout deadly on the corner fade route. During one fall camp session, Dean scored four straight touchdowns on the same route against different cornerbacks. He's a big, athletic receiver who can go up and get the ball as good as anyone. His shortcoming right now being fresh out of high school is his route running. Coaches will surely be working with Dean on making cleaner, sharper cuts in his routes and getting the initial burst and making a first move to get open quickly.

DaCo on Dean: Dean, as you might imagine, is a long-strider with sneaky speed. He's also not only 6-6, but he's 6-6 with tremendous leaping ability. He's clearly not as polished as he will be in the future, but he is already dangerous in his current role and his ball skills are simply amazing when the ball is up for grabs.

FSDogs1 on Dean: Don't be surprised if it's "VD" for the TD in the season opener. His first career catch just might be for a score.

Josh Harper: A talent worth Harp-ing on
Fr, 6'1", 187
Stockton (St. Mary's HS)

According to a recent report, Josh Harper is also expected to play as a true freshman, which came as a bit of a surprise being that so many other newcomers looked more ready to make an impact. Harper was the highest rated of any Fresno State recruit coming out of high school, and is the most physically ready receiver, but struggled with his hands during open fall camp. The daily drops kept him behind Dean, Jalen Saunders and Isaiah Burse, but he did make some quality plays in the first fall scrimmage.

DaCo on Harper: The cal decommit has legit superstar tools, no question. He showed consistent progression throughout camp, and shined when the lights were brightest in the open scrimmage. Harper clearly is the real deal and is a well-rounded, every down kind of receiver.

FSDogs1 on Harper: His build should have Bulldogs fans excited, but it's far from clear how often he'll make it on the field during games this season. If he indeed plays as a true, Pat Hill must be thinking ahead to getting the young receivers experience so they're ready for Derek Carr's debut next season and beyond.

Isaiah Burse: Future star ready to Burse onto scene
Fr, 5'11", 180
Modesto (Modesto Christian HS)

From the first drills on the first day of fall camp, Isaiah Burse was excelling amongst the newcomers with the crispness of his route running -- beyond the norm for a guy right out of high school. That, along with the fact he can play quarterback in the "wildcat," should lead to him playing as a true freshman. Burse led his high school to a state title at quarterback, and also played point guard on the basketball team. His biggest impact this year is likely to come from the quarterback role.

DaCo on Burse: Considering he's a true freshman, Burse is a respectable threat at wide receiver. He's elusive and already an impressive route runner, impressive for a former QB. His versatility as a wildcat QB is what makes playing him as a true a real tease, because he can run, option, throw or receive out of the formation. His presence will make preparing for the Bulldogs offense a headache for opposing teams for years to come.

FSDogs1 on Burse: He's still raw when lined up at pure receiver, which is why it was so surprising he was the standout route runner of the group. But what he brings to the quarterback position is fascinating (being that he can actually throw the ball as well as run it).

Jalen Saunders: News flash, Saunders is fast -- and good
Fr, 5'10", 170
Elk Grove (Pleasant Grove HS)

While Victor Dean's size makes him the most exciting of the newcomers, Jalen Saunders' speed makes him the biggest big-play threat. There wasn't a practice that went by in open fall camp when Saunders didn't wow with his speed and ability to get open deep. recently reported he has an NCAA Clearinghouse issue and may end up having to greyshirt and sit out this season, but if he is declared eligible he's almost a lock to earn playing time. And he'll fit in quite nicely with the Wylie/Evans "Smurf" squad. The key for Saunders in the year ahead is to add strength to his thin frame to battle press coverage that is sure to be used against him to negate his speed.

DaCo on Saunders: Let's say Devon Wylie's speed is a given, which at a 4.25 40, shouldn't be a problem. Now this: it is very difficult for the naked eye to see a difference between the straight-line speed of Wylie and Saunders. That's fast. Saunders has shown no fear in competing with veterans and could be one of the biggest steals of the class. He's improved every day, displaying solid hands, precise route running and definite big-play ability. Good luck not getting giggly and giddy when watching his development unfold before your eyes.

FSDogs1 on Saunders: I don't know how fast Saunders runs, but by the time his Bulldogs career is finished, he'll be one of the fastest in school history. And he'll be a heck of a weapon in this athlete-riddled offense the team is piecing together.

Davon Dunn: One tough son of a Dunn
Fr, 5'11", 175
San Diego (Lincoln HS)
Davon Dunn, the son of former Fresno State and NFL receiver David Dunn, was late gaining his clearinghouse eligibility, but as soon as he padded up for camp he looked like one of the better athletes on the field. He's good enough to play right away, but will likely redshirt because there's so much depth at the position. When he does hit the field, he'll be a threat catching the ball, running the ball and returning the ball. And he looks taller than expected.

DaCo on Dunn: All it took was one touch of the ball by Dunn and it became clear he was as good as advertised. Yet another guy with great body control and explosiveness, and may be the best all-around playmaker of the bunch. Unfortunately, the clearinghouse delay stalled his chance to prove himself in time to get on the field this season (at least for now).

FSDogs1 on Dunn: Dunn is probably the most athletic and agile of the new WRs, and like Saunders, Dean and Harper, is capable of being All-WAC (er, should we say All-MWC) in the next few years.

Alex Jefferies: No more grey area for Jefferies
G-Fr, 6'0", 171
Rialto (Eisenhower Senior HS)

Alex Jefferies was part of the previous recruiting class but eligibility issues forced him to greyshirt last season. His arrival in spring, and solid routes in fall camp have been wonderful to see. And he's already established a connection with Derek Carr on and off the field. But with the depth, he's also expected to redshirt this season.

DaCo on Jefferies: This is just ridiculous now. Jefferies is seemingly yet another obvious star-worthy talent at the position. Like A.J. Johnson, Jefferies has flown under the radar, but he is easily in the conversation when comparing him with the rest of the wide receiving talents on the roster.
FSDogs1 on Jefferies: Don't be surprised if he climbs the depth chart in the next couple years and becomes a big part of the offense. The competition at the position will be nothing less than spectacular.

Matthew De Los Santos: 'De La' showing impressive growth
So, 5'11", 180
Ventura (St. Bonaventure HS)

A walk-on last season, and brother of KSEE24 sports reporter Senerey De Los Santos, Matthew De Los Santos has surprising speed and looks much improved from last season. He seems to have responded well to the coaching. But there are just too many talented receivers ahead for him to get game action the next couple years.

Taylor Stewart: Considering the talent, at least he's on the team
R-Fr, 6'0", 185
Clovis (Buchanan HS)

Also a walk-on, Taylor Stewart, son of defensive coordinator Randy Stewart, has a year under his belt in the program, but isn't at the level where he'll compete for playing time any time soon. Gotta love the Bulldog Spirit though.

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