You'd think that with two returning receivers as talented as Mario Urrutia and Harry Douglas Louisville fans would be able to find another position to focus their attention on this offseason, but conversation concerning who will be the Cardinal's number three receiver has been as consistent as any since April.
Though being a third receiver is much more about seeing your name at the beginning of telecasts on ESPN than it is actually having any additional number of balls thrown your way, we are still a month away from the season and this is something to talk about, thus we delve deeper.
With all due to respect to Josh Chichester and Troy Pascley (both of whom I think can be fine players) I believe the following six gentlemen are your candidates for the position at the moment:
The Favorite: JaJuan Spillman
2006 Stats: Caught seven passes for 56 yards and no touchdowns as a freshman.
Barring a month of August riddled with absolutely zero progress, it appears that Spillman is going to be the guy to win the honor in question.
Though much attention was devoted to helping JaJuan become a better route runner this spring, he made an impact in the Spring Game mostly by doing the same thing he did in '06, using his speed on jet sweeps to break big runs. Spillman only caught three balls for 28 yards, but he was the leading rusher in the game, carrying the ball five times and picking up 72 yards, the bulk of which came on a 56-yard touchdown scamper.
Despite his apparent resistance to change in the Red-White Game, I think we are going to see JaJuan utilized much more as a threat down the middle of the field as opposed to just being used on jet sweeps or as a decoy on dive plays. This increased role on offense coupled with a rule change that greatly rewards dynamic kick returners means that Spillman will likely have a far greater impact on U of L's ultimate success or lack of success in 2007 than most pundits are currently giving him credit for.
The Reigning Champ: Pat Carter
2006 Stats: Caught five passes for 68 yards and no touchdowns as a junior.
Expectations were high for Carter this time last year, as the Georgia Tech transfer was coming off a splendid spring and was on his way to earning a starting position. Though he did eventually earn that third starting receiver spot and made a sensational jumping catch right in the middle of the first-half onslaught against Kentucky, Carter's 2006 season was largely considered a disappointment.
While he is arguably the most naturally gifted of the six, something with Carter just didn't click last season and his biggest contribution to the team was ultimately the touchdown pass he threw in the first half of the Orange Bowl. Whether or not the proverbial light bulb will come on at some point during his senior season is something that no one can foresee, but if it does it means that #4 will be another lethal weapon Steve Kraghtorpe can use to spread the field.
The Star in Waiting: Scott Long
2006 Stats: Saw action in nine games but did not catch a pass as a freshman.
There's no way I can start this other than by saying that I am a Scott Long guy. Though I don't think his impact will be extraordinary this season because he doesn't compliment #85 and #7 as well as players like Spillman, Carter or Guy, I do think that he will shine at moments, and that he will be the guy in the receiving corps once Harry graduates and if (God forbid) Mario bolts after this season.
At 6-2, 215-pounds, Long has the solid frame to match a pair of soft hands and the inherent superb athleticism that gives him the potential to be special. He capped off a tremendous spring where he displayed marked improvement - and a newfound dedication to avoiding paintball drama - by catching four balls for 120 yards in the Red-White Game.
The Wild Card: Chris Vaughn
2006 Stats: Caught four balls for 54 yards and no touchdowns as a sophomore.
The Butch Moron to Long's Sundance Idiot (see what I did there? mom says creativity is what's going to ultimately carry me to the big bucks), Vaughn showed signs of being a promising physical, possession receiver during his first season of action since transferring from Notre Dame, but far too often he struggled to hold onto the ball on what should have been easy receptions. With Carter out due to injury, Vaughn was actually the guy who stepped in and started the Middle Tennessee State and Kansas State games. His catches, however, were limited to those two games.
Vaughn again displayed the ability to be a valuable third-and-medium player when he caught five passes for 53 yards in the Spring Game. How much action he sees early in the season will be predicated on what type of impression he makes on Kragthorpe over the next few weeks.
The Secret Weapon: Trent Guy
2006 Stats: Ended the season as the starting punt returner, but did not catch a pass as a freshman.
If Spillman morphs into a predominant route-runner, then it will likely be the speedy Guy who we see handling the jet sweep and reverse duties. Likely the fastest of the six candidates, Guy can be an especially lethal weapon if he's seldom utilized outside of the punt return game.
There was no punting in the Spring Game so Guy was unable to fully showcase his skills, but he did catch three balls for 19 yards. I would expect that Trent's contributions are again going to be mostly limited to punt returns (which is huge), but don't be surprised if he makes a highlight or two out of an offensive play designed specifically for him this season.
The Long Shot: Corey Thompson
2006 Stats: The Duke transfer saw action in all 13 games, catching three passes for 33 yards.
Though it went largely unnoticed, by the end of last season Thompson was seeing as much field time as any Cardinal receiver this side of Douglas, Urrutia and Riley. Hampered by injury, Thompson was unable to participate in the Spring Game.
The 6-0, 185-pound Thompson is blessed with tremendous speed, but the only problem for him is that there are two guys playing the same position on the same team who may just be a wee bit more blessed in the same area. Corey proved to be a reliable contributor last season, but I think he's really going to have to turn some heads this month to see his role increase a noticeable amount.