Few positions will face greater personnel turnover than Louisville will find at wide receiver. In terms of both quality and quantity of players, Louisville experienced a mass exodus of talented and experienced players on the outside and faces a near complete overhaul of the position as spring practice opens next week. While the names are mostly new, Louisville is not without talent at the position and unlike this year, there won’t be an entire spring and fall of preparing to have a primary guy only to have him go down with injury a week before the season kicks off.
The only returning known quantity at receiver is junior James Quick. Quick finished 2014 third on the team with 36 receptions and second with 566 yards and 3 touchdowns. There’s no denying that Quick struggled when thrust into the primary receiver role early in the season (to say nothing of returning punts). But, to his credit, Quick played quite well against Kentucky and in the bowl game and seemed to finally settle down and just relax. Now with an entire offseason to prepare for the fact that he’s going to be the guy in 2015 (or should be), Louisville needs Quick to begin to approach the hype that surrounded him when he picked Louisville over Ohio State.
Across from Quick figures to be a pretty good battle between two highly rated prospects looking to make the most of their second major college homes. Ja’Quay Williams (6’3, 215) and Paul Harris (6’3, 203) were both four-star rated prospects out of high school that didn’t work out at Texas A&M and Tennessee respectively. Williams has the advantage of having already been in Louisville for a year and the chance to be familiar with the system. Harris sat out the year at Iowa Western Junior College to rehab an injured hamstring. He’s enrolled and will go through spring practice as well. Here’s Harris from his high school video.
It’s at this point that relatively unknown prospects will determine whether or not receiver will still be a team strength in 2015. True freshman Traveon Samuel (5’7, 178) enrolled early and figures to be a big factor as a slot receiver in 3WR/4WR/5WR sets right away. He’s the guy capable of taking five yard slants and crossing routes and turning them in to 20+ yard plays.
After that, Louisville will look for production from UAB transfer Jamari Staples (6’4, 196) and Gio Pascascio (6’3, 185). Staples is eligible right away and recently posted the team’s fastest 40 yard dash time (an incredible, literally, 4.29). Pascascio played played sparingly last year but did see the field in a handful of games. The same is true of Javonte Bagley (6'3, 192). Bagley, who was praised explicitly by Petrino at the beginning of fall camp in 2014, caught a touchdown against Murray State last year and drew comparisons to Harry Douglas from coaches. If I had to pick a sleeper to emerge from spring, it's Bagley.
No matter what happens in spring, I don't expect the depth chart to be written in stone. Louisville also signed Devante Peete, Emonee Spence, Jaylen Smith, and Trey Smith and while Peete is rumored to be a qualifying risk and a potential tight end as well, all four should they arrive in the fall, will have chances to play. In the end, while there will be plenty of new names and faces, and none of them looks like a DeVante Parker, there is still plenty of talent to work with and certainly enough to keep receiver a strength of the offense.