Mike's posting of the Miami game clips inspired me to make this week's Better Know a Cardinal about the wide receivers. I'll just start at the beginning: I really love the position of football wide receiver. I was never big enough or strong enough or fast enough or, really, anything enough to play real tackle football. But in backyard touch football games, and even the occasional tackle Turkey Bowl games at St. Albert (later moved to Ballard), I always loved playing wide receiver. Obviously, a lot of that was lack of choice: there was no running game, there were no linemen, and I wasn't a quarterback. So pretty much everyone played receiver and corner back and Rover/spy/blitz-once-every-four-downs guy. But even when I left the backyard, I was always fascinated by wide receivers. Posters of Anthony Carter and Chris Carter made my wall instead of QBs or RBs or safeties. In video games, I pretty much only threw the ball except on John Elway's Nintendo game, which had the "Reverse" play glitch that gave your guy super-crazy speed. I also usually lost, but that's neither here nor there. Passing was just way more fun.
During that time, UofL was known for their quarterbacks. But from the early 1990s until, really, Kragthorpe, there were also a ton of great receiving corps on those teams as well. From the group that gave themselves the AFROS name to Deion Branch to JR Russell to Harry Douglas, it always seemed like we had playmakers to throw the ball to. We always had guys who could throw the ball and catch the ball. But we never had that dominating guy, like Keyshawn Johnson in the Rose Bowl his last year at USC. It always amazed me how a guy who played wide out could take over a game like that. You'd think after awhile, the other team would just play like 3 guys on him, or not ever let him get open.
But we never really had That Guy. And I was never really That Guy: you know, the guy who owned a team/player jersey. And I likely never will again. The only one I have ever owned belonged, of course, to a wide receiver. I started hearing about Mario Urrutia in the months leading up to the 2005 season and started to get really excited. "Unguardable" "playmaker" "no one like him".....if there was a CardChronicle then, I'm sure he would have reached man-crush status based on summer practice reports alone.
And when he finally got on the field, he did not disappoint. I was at his breakout game against Oregon State (even though that was literally 6 years ago, I can remember it like it was yesterday) and watched him make plays we hadn't seen before at Louisville his whole red-shirt freshman year. I had never been as excited about or cheered for a Louisville player - before or since - as Mario Urrutia in 2005 and 2006. He was bigger, stronger, faster and more athletic than anyone who guarded him. He was simply a game-changer. I got his red #7 jersey for Christmas that year and got his black #7 during the 2006 season. Wore them to law school finals (black ones for afternoon exams, obv) and to basketball games. Wore them to poker tournaments. Anything I needed to get psyched up for.
There's just something about a dominating wide receiver that gets you excited about football. After Mario's disappointing Kragging in 2007 and bolting for NFL practice squads, I've semi-retired the jerseys. I certainly don't wear them to get pumped up (although I'm not sure wearing one during a trial would be good for jury appeal). I was excited about WWII wearing #7, but then that didn't work out. Then I tried to talk myself into the Karldell Dunning era, but no dice. After Mario and Harry left, Scott Long valiantly tried to represent the wide receiving corps, but injuries and Kragthorpe wasted his talent/size/speed combination. It was like the wide receivers and the #7 jersey lost their power, lost their luster, and part of the excitement of the game went with it.
But thanks to Charlie Strong and company, the 2011 Louisville Cardinal football wide receiving corps will be the deepest and most talented since the Petrino days. Not sure if there's a 2005-06 Mario among them, but this group, if they can get someone to throw the ball to them, has the potential to be our best overall unit. Josh Bellamy and Andrell Smith (my dark horse pick for offensive MVP this season) are the two veterans, although Smith is still just a junior. Josh Chichester is listed as a TE but will probably have the ball thrown to him more than anyone else. Damien Copeland (#7), Jarrett Davis and Kai Dominguez all saw limited action last year. That group alone would be a positive. But the real excitement comes from the newcomers, who you can meet.....after the jump.
Michaelee Harris (#2) - Red Shirt Freshman
There was a lot of excitement last year about this guy, one of the group from Miami Northwestern that chose us after Coach Strong was hired. Harris was, according to unconfirmed internet reports and my spotty memory, said to be the best WR in August before a knee injury put him out for a few months. While obviously we want talent on the field and never want a guy to get hurt, red shirting guys like this should be our policy, unless they are AJ Green or Julio Jones. Not much more needs to be said about him. Just watch:
You may also recognize one Teddy Bridgewater throwing him the ball. So maybe they have some chemistry. Either way, will be exciting to watch.
CardsFan922 Prediction: Three touchdowns on the season, a couple catches a game as he eases back into playing shape after two long absences from injury. Long-term stud.
Eli Rogers (#?) - True Freshman
Someone Teddy definitely has chemistry with is Eli Rogers. Thought to be a package deal because of their extremely tight relationship and close families, Rogers committed with Teddy, then seemed to look around as the signing deadline approached, and then re-affirmed his commitment to the Cards. Rogers also has some impressive Miami highlights:
Rogers also made a name for himself at the Under Armour All-American game, catching a key pass late to set up a winning score:
CardsFan922 Prediction: He's a little smaller and with so much talent around him, I'm not sure if he is so good they will want to burn his redshirt or let him develop for a year. For WRs to take over the game, they have to be insanely fast or really big, and he's neither. He's just a talented, solid receiver who will get better every year. Overall, I would imagine it would be hard to redshirt a guy like this, but I also don't seem him scoring many TDs or being a main target on offense.
DeVante Parker (#9) - True Freshman
I warn you, this might get weird. If anyone has the potential to be a Mario-type player, it's DeVante. From his size (6'3") to his speed to his leaping ability to his local-boy-makes-good hometown connection, I haven't been this excited about a football commit in awhile. He wanted to be a Cardinal early, committing in December 2009, soon after Charlie Strong was hired, and never wavered. I vaguely remember feeling sick when I heard he was visiting UK, but I don't think anything ever really came of it. Parker will see the field right away and Mike Sanford singled him (and Rogers) out as guys who could contribute as freshman.
Here's Parker in action:
CardsFan922 Prediction: He will break the record for "most times I point out to my wife or whoever is with me at the game that he is in, followed by me watching him block for a off-tackle run and then run back to the sideline" currently held by another #9, Chris Vaughn. He will see time from game 1 and catch a TD pass against Murray State in the opener. He will become a fan favorite because of the local connection, although he may struggle a bit as a true freshman WR, especially since he is just one of many talented guys lining up outside and Josh Bellamy and he I think play the same spot. If he drops a couple passes early, he will also break the record for "CardsFan922 cursed him" jokes, currently held by, you know.
Jerrell Moore (#83) - True Freshman
Another guy I'm excited about, both because of the local connection and the combination speed/athleticism/excitement factor, Moore played for Mario Urrutia's high school Fern Creek. More of a running back in their offense, and could see time as the wildcard/Harvin type player in our offense. Basically, he's not going deep, but we'll probably try to get the ball in his hands near the LOS and let him make guys miss. I'm not sure how Corvin Lamb's enrollment will affect him because they both seem to be the same type player. But that's a good problem to have. He looks pretty good in this video:
CardsFan922 Prediction: The most heated, yet not talked about, battle of August camp will not be Teddy/Will but will be Jerrell and Lamb. Looking back at the roster, I don't think there is really anyone else except maybe Kai Dominguez who could fill that roll, so Lamb and Moore should both play a lot of snaps, although if one of them really distances himself in August or during the season, it would be great to redshirt Moore. I can see at least one electrifying touchdown run this season for him.
Corvin Lamb (#3) - Freshman
Note: Corvin Lamb is listed as a running back on the official website, but WTF do they know? A speedster from Miami Northwestern, Lamb played with Harris, Rogers and Bridgewater on what much have been a fun team to watch.
Dude is fast. Understandable that he's listed as a RB, but expect to see him in lots of places with the ball - special teams, slot, etc. Mengus covered this the other day.
CardsFan922 Prediction: Beats out Moore for the WR/RB hybrid playmaker spot and returns one kickoff for a TD this season.
Overall, a very exciting group. Hard to see who redshirts, you can make a case for Rogers and Moore. But they may end up being the most talented guys in the group.
Either way, don't be surprised if you find yourself wanting a #9 jersey this season. Or an #83. Or a #2. Or a #3. Lots of guys with the ability to be game-changers. Will, how do you feel about that?
You said it, bro. You said it.