For the first installment of our position-by-position look at the BC roster this summer, we look at wide receiver.
At quarterback, the Eagles feature one of the better quarterbacks in the ACC in Tyler Murphy, to go along with an experienced offensive line. The wide receiver group does not enjoy the same level of confidence and security.
Let's examine why at wide receiver, here:
The biggest drop-off from last year at any offensive position ---and maybe any position in general---is at wide receiver. Alex Amidon is gone and so are his 77 receptions and 1,032 yards receiving from last year. Also gone are the second, third, and fourth leading receivers from last season.
The good news is that Shakim Phillips is back. Even though the school hasn't officially announced anything yet, Phillips has taken to Twitter and not exactly made it a secret that he is coming back to the Heights. One of this most recent tweets from over the weekend read:
... Ever to Excel— Shakim Phillips (@ShakPhillips_8) July 4, 2014
Phillips appeared in six games for UConn last season and caught 28 passes for 406 yards. Expectations were raised for the former four-star receiver when he started the year with 5 receptions for 77 yards and 2 touchdowns against Towson, and then 10 receptions for 178 yards and a touchdown against Maryland. However, Phillips suffered a hamstring injury towards the end of the Maryland game which kept him out of the lineup for three games. The wide receiver returned during the middle of the season, but missed the last two games of the year with an ankle injury.
When Phillips is healthy he has the potential to be a legitimate number one receiver on a good team. His health is the big question mark surrounding him though.
After Phillips there is a huge drop-off when you look at production from the 2013 season. To put things in perspective, the rest of the returning wide receivers on BC's roster had fewer receptions, receiving yards and touchdown passes combined last year as Phillips did and he didn't exactly have monster numbers either.
The receiver with the most experience and most overall career production is senior Bobby Swigert. In Swigert's first two seasons he combined for 83 receptions and 974 yards. Since that time injuries have slowed him down. However, after sitting out all of last season to recover from injury, the staff is hopeful that Swigert can be a contributor this season.
Not that the impact of Amidon's graduation was or should have come as any surprise, but his absence now reveals even further how critical he was to BC's passing game the last few seasons
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There will probably be a couple of wide receivers that play a decent amount of snaps this year that are pretty much unknown to the average BC fan. By unknown I mean players that had less than 100 receiving yards last season. That group includes Drew Barksdale, Josh Bordner, Charlie Callinan, Dan Crimmins, and David Dudeck to name a few. That's before you even talk about the freshmen wideouts that were added to the roster.
The big question: Who will step up?
If Phillips and Swigert can stay healthy the staff has a good feel on the level of production that they can get from them Among the players currently working out at receiver, there isn't one candidate that seems like a no brainer to make a huge step up though.
Harrison Jackson was thought to be that guy headed into the spring. After tearing his ACL in spring practice though, he doesn't look like he can be counted on for this year.
Perhaps the player with the most upside in the group is quarterback turned receiver Josh Bordner. BC coach Steve Addazio seemed genuinely excited about Bordner after spring ball and had a lot of positives things to say when talking about him. Bordner is expected to play a hybrid role at receiver and can be used in different situations ranging from a red zone target to short yardage blocking.
One other player to look at is running back Myles Willis. While not a receiver, Willis was lined up on the outside by offensive coordinator Ryan Day at times last season. Don't be surprised to see Day leverage his depth at running back to help out at wide receiver from time to time.
What does the future hold at wide receiver?
This writer still maintains that Jackson is a future #1 wideout at the Heights. He's a good route runner and has above average hands. If he can recover fully from his ACL injury then he should be a contributor as soon as he comes back.
True freshmen Thaddius Smith, Gabriel McClary, Nat Dixon, and Troy Flutie will all get a crack at playing time in summer camp. Of the group, Smith comes as the highest ranked recruit as he was ranked the 78th wide receiver in his class.