As good as Andrew Luck was over the past three seasons, it was difficult to find an article about him that didn't include a few disparaging remarks about the wide receivers. You know what I'm talking about -- "Just imagine the numbers Luck could've put up if he were throwing to elite wide receivers like the ones playing at USC..."
While the Stanford wideouts didn't strike the fear of god into anyone like Justin Blackmon did or shatter records like Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, it's not like the receivers were awful, either.
A little more than a year ago I wrote a piece here reviewing the wide receivers' performance in the 2010 season, and I included a quick look ahead to 2011. Here's what I wrote:
"Chris Owusu will be back with much to prove, as will the talented but currently-in-the-dog-house Jamal-Rashad Patterson and sophomore Drew Terrell, who made an impact this year on special teams. Also in the mix should be incoming recruit Ty Montgomery, a four-star recruit from Texas who turned down offers from Cal, Georgia, and UCLA."
Chris Owusu was the only sure starter going into the season, but his concussion problems kept him off the field for half the season, essentially leaving both starting receiver spots up for grabs. Graduating senior Griff Whalen was steady throughout the year, but Montgomery was the true breakout star, and even with the uncertainty at the quarterback position, expectations are still high for Montgomery in 2012. His freshman campaign included 24 receptions for 350 yards and two touchdowns, but the bulk of that production came in the season's final few games. Against Cal, Notre Dame, and Oklahoma State, Montgomery totalled 16 catches for 242 yards and both of his touchdowns. I think it's safe to say that he'll pick up right where he left off. Lock him in as the number one receiver and expect 45 receptions for 700 yards and 6 touchdowns. Those numbers might seem modest, but remember a few things. One, this will only be Montgomery's sophomore season; two, those numbers would essentially double his freshman stats; and three, they would almost equal Whalen's output from 2011.
Beyond Montgomery, things become a bit unclear. Senior Drew Terrell should probably be the lead candidate for the #2 spot, but he only caught eight balls last season. Fellow senior Jamal-Rashad Patterson was even more disappointing, only catching three balls, none of them important. Still languishing on the sidelines is the erstwhile four-star recruit from Long Beach, California, senior Jemari Roberts. Former cornerback Richard Sherman often spoke of Roberts as the most talented receiver on the roster, but it remains to be seen whether or not Roberts will get a chance to contribute.
Sophomore Devon Cajuste should also be in the mix, but the surprise name has to be Jordan Pratt, a sophomore walk-on who graduated from high school in 2003, making him at least five years older than anyone else on the field. Pratt was a three-sport star at Central High School in Oregon, but he wanted to be a pitcher, so he signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Pratt never got the call to the big club, so he's giving football a chance. We first reported this almost a year ago, and at the time it seemed like nothing more than a lark, but the early word out of spring practice is that Pratt's making a run at some playing time. Observers noted that while other receivers loafed through warm-ups, Pratt focused. While others seemed bored in scrimmages, Pratt looked as if he were lining up against USC. Perspective and maturity will beat young and lazy every time, so don't be surprised if Pratt finds the field in September.
In another recent development, sophomore Kelsey Young, originally recruited as a running back, has reportedly been so explosive in spring practice that the coaching staff has been considering playing him at receiver, if only to get him the ball. (Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton recently asserted that running back Stepfan Taylor could gain 2,000 yards, which sounds like we might be looking at a running back committee of one.)
The talent is definitely there, but we'll have to wait five months to see if the results follow.
[Photo Credit: Donald Miralle/Getty Images]