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2015 Position Previews: Wide Receiver

In 2014, the wide receiving corps contained Louisville's most dynamic player and was probably the group fans and analysts had more confidence in than wound up being deserved. Upon the announcement of DeVante Parker's injury, most thought the group was still talented enough to be a team strength and bear up under the loss until he returned. For the most part, it did not. Drops, route confusion, and overall poor play plagued the group for long stretches of 2014. And now DeVante Parker is gone for good.

Paradoxically, the departure of Parker might be the very thing that helps make this year's group a better overall group than the 2014 version. It is impossible to overstate the degree to which Louisville had to overhaul the entire offensive strategy and how every other receiver was going to be used in response to Parker's injury. James Quick was going to be the Alvin Harper to Parker's Michael Irvin. Eli Rogers and Kai De La Cruz were going to work the seams from the slot, etc. Two weeks before the season, Louisville has to make Quick the #1 outside receiver (which he's just not suited to be) and everyone else seemed to equally be out of place in their jumbled new roles. If you think this is overstatement, look how well others did once Parker was in to soak up the defensive attention.

With no such expectations of 2015, Louisville's receivers will have a chance to settle into roles much earlier in camp and benefit from even the new faces having been on campus for months (or even years).

The Cast

Name Class Height Weight Rec Yards Yards/Rec TD Games
James Quick JR 6'1 191 36 566 15.7 3 12
Charles Standberry SO 6'3 226 7 57 8.1 2 13
Javonte Bagley SO 6'3 192 2 18 9 0 4
Jamari Staples (UAB) JR 6'4 196 9 190 21.1 1 9
Alphonso Carter SO 6'3 203 - - - - -
JaQuay Savage SO 6'3 214 - - - - -
Gio Pascascio JR 6'3 185 - - - - 8
Emonee Spence FR 6'3 194 - - - - -
Jaylen Smith FR 6'4 209 - - - - -
Traveon Samuel FR 5'7 178 - - - - -
DeVante Peete FR 6'6 202 - - - - -
Dontez Byrd SO 5'11 170 - - - - 12

Breaking Down the Battle

For depth chart purposes, Louisville will probably name three starting receivers for any given game. As of now, we know James Quick played with a lot of confidence once the focus was solely off of him as primary receiver. I mean, who can forget this against Kentucky?

In the Belk Bowl, we got a decent glimpse of Quick as a slot receiver and he had receptions of 28 and 29 yards in the loss. In the spring he seemed comfortable and should excel there working primarily against nickel coverage defenders and safeties. True freshman speedster Traveon Samuel should see plenty of time in the slot as well. He'll benefit from enrolling early and getting both a full spring and summer of conditioning under his belt. If you've not seen Samuel's highlights, you're missing out. Yes, he's on the small side, but we've seen what Petrino can do with guys like Trent Guy or Joe Adams. I wouldn't be shocked to see him carry the ball here and there either.

Also working the middle of the field will likely be tight end-ish Charles Standberry. He's a fantastic receiver and not a great in the box blocker. So even though he pushed Gerald Christian for playing time last year for much of the season, they're going to use him primarily as a slot receiver and let him use his size. He'll also be a fine edge blocker for Louisville's screen game and option game.

On the outside, it seemed clear to most that the X-receiver (outside receiver on the opposite side of the strength of the formation) and the Z-receiver (outside receiver to the strong side) starting spots were nailed down by two former four-star high school recruits that took the long way to Louisville. Alphonso Carter (formerly Paul Harris) and JaQuay Savage (formerly JaQauy Williams) are both tall and physical receivers (6'3, 203 and 6'3, 214 respectively). Savage averaged nearly 18 yards per catch in limited duty as a freshman at Texas A&M. The most likely candidates to back them up are sophomores Javonte Bagley and UAB transfer Jamari Staples. If those four are the main X and Z receivers, Louisville won't start an outside receiver under 6'3. Staples is a familiar face to offensive coordinator Garrick McGee, who recruited him while at UAB. Coaches praised his speed throughout the spring. Quiet addition Gio Pascascio will also be in the mix (few people know he was in the starting lineup against NC State).

While virtually all of these faces are new, they've all been on campus for a while. Samuel, Carter, and Staples all enrolled in January and went through spring ball. Savage was here for the 2014 and sat out due to his transfer. To be able to add talented new faces but get them all at least one semester's worth of practice will help ease the transition.

So what of the true newcomers? Petrino has said repeatedly that all three of Devante Peete, Emonee Spence, and Jaylen Smith are physically impressive. They're all very tall (6'6, 6'3, and 6'4 respectively) and have impressed the staff with their effort and attitude in summer conditioning and voluntary workouts. Will that be enough to push any of them into playing time in 2015? It's possible. Few thought Bagley would play in 2014 but he saw occasional snaps and played on special teams as well. The biggest decision to make will be to decide if Peete, who is not incredibly fast, should redshirt, focus on school and putting on weight and strength, and perhaps make him a tight end. There's likely enough depth at either position without him to do it.

Breakout Potential

JaQauy Savage has waited a long time and taken a rather circuitous route to finally start as a major college receiver, but I'm betting on him to be the guy that people talk about by year's end. He had a 54 yard touchdown in the spring game and with a year of practice already, he's primed to be the guy for Louisville in 2015. Additionally, I'm really optimistic about James Quick as a slot receiver. Louisville has to get more of the crossing route (here's a great piece by Chris Brown on how Petrino uses the shallow cross in his offense). Quick can be a dangerous run after catch guy in that role and I think he will be.

Better or Worse than Last Year

It would be foolish to say the group will be better with all of the production of DeVante Parker and Eli Rogers gone. So early on, no, this group likely won't be as good and surely won't be better than last year. But they might be better than most are expecting for reasons outlined above and the fact that virtually all of them are guys Petrino and Lamar Thomas recruited. These are their types of guys and we've seen first hand what happens once Petrino starts to get his kinds of guys in place.

There are no seniors and only three juniors in this group. These are the receivers of the present as well as the future.