By David Udel
For one reason or another, the Hurricane wide receiver room underperformed in 2018. Mostly due to the fact that the quarterback room was even worse. Listen, I’m not gonna sit here and pretend that the 105th ranked offense in CFB was good in any way. In all honesty, they were a total disappointment. Every position group with exception of our running back room was in total disarray.
Now I’m not going to blame this just on the kids either. Coach Richt and the entire offensive coaching staff were a mess last year. With the exception of Tight End coach Todd Hartley, when Diaz fired the entire staff I was not surprised at all. Hartley going to UGA will probably come back to bite us in the ass, due to the fact he is such a great recruiter.
As we all know Coach Richt lost his locker room last year and nowhere did it show more than in the Wide Reciever and Quarter Back rooms. We talked to several kids on the team last year, and it’s fair to say it was a divided locker room.
First, we had Jeff Thomas kicked off the team. Mark Pope was reportedly upset over playing time, and some of the kids were giving much more than their two cents worth of complaining about the Quarterback situation.
The only bright spot to me was Mike Harley. During all the chaos last year, Harley stayed focussed and did all he could to improve his play. But now it’s 2019 and time to put all that behind us and focus on a new year with a new offensive staff. The good news is, we have the best Wide Reciever room in the State. The problem is, its so good, who is gonna take over and lead this unit, not only on the field but off the field? I truly believe the whole Wide Reciever room will do a complete 180 under the new staff and have a break out year.
So let’s get started.
All four of these guys are practice squad kids that we don’t see getting any playing time in 2019.
WR. 6’6″ 225 RS-Sophomore.
Njoku saw action in eight games, with one catch totaling eleven yards. Now, remember, Njoku came off a season-ending injury last year and we don’t believe he was ever 100 percent last year.
So we are hoping this year he has a much better season now that he is 100 percent healthy. With both Cager and Ezzard, our big possession receivers transferring out of the program, we will need Njoku to step up and be that big-bodied receiver, especially in the red zone.
WR. 6’0″. 205 RS-Senior.
Osborn spent four seasons at Buffalo, serving as one of Bulls’ top playmakers in final two seasons. Osborn had 53 catches for 892 yards with seven touchdowns in 2018. Osborn also earned second-team All-MAC honors in the final year.
Osborn will bring much-needed leadership to a very young Wide Reciever room. Osborn will probably get the starting job, but who really knows. There is simply too much talent on the Hurricanes to predict who will start. But my guess is, Thomas, Harley, and Osborn will get the starting jobs.
Slot WR. 5’9″ 175 Junior.
Harley saw action in all thirteen games with four starts. Harley had 21 receptions for 240 receiving yards. Harley is my favorite receiver on the Hurricanes, mostly because he is all Cane all the time. I believe it broke his heart when he didn’t get an offer from the Canes and he committed to West Virginia. So when the offer did come, Harley jumped on it like a tick on a deer. Harley has worked harder than anyone since joining the team. Harley will be the starting Slot-Reciever for 2019.
WR. 5’10” 170 Junior.
Thomas saw action in 11 of 12 games with 35 catches for 563 yards and three touchdowns. Thomas averaged 24.6 yards on nine punt returns (221 punt return yards) with one punt return touchdown.
On the field, Thomas is the best WR in the State of Florida, hands down, no argument. Off the field, who knows. It was reported Thomas was late for meetings, practice, and some in the locker room thinks he was a distraction that quit on his team. Other people close to the team called Thomas a cancer that had to be removed. Bottom line is we will never know the truth and me for one support Thomas 100 percent. Listen, kids go through all kinds of things and I was told he was having family issues as well. I believe with all my heart we will see a much different Jeff Thomas off the field with the leadership of our new coaching staff. Thomas will be our #1 starting WR.
Now, this is where I simply don’t have a clue which one of these very talented young receivers steps up to be stars at the U, but here goes. Will any of these kids start over K.J. Osborn as the other starting Wide Reciever with Jeff Thomas and Mike Harley?
WR. 6’1″. 180 Sophomore.
Pope saw action in nine games in regular season but only had one catch. It was reported that Pope was very critical of how he was used and lack of playing time. Talk inside the locker room was that Pope was so upset, he wanted out. But talk is just that, talk. All kinds of the talk was coming out of the Miami locker room last year and who knows what to believe. But it’s safe to assume that Pope was not a happy camper.
Part of what I’m hearing is the staff was unhappy with his route running skills and he just might be a DGL (dude go long) receiver.
Desmond Howard of Michigan was a DGL receiver and won a Heisman. I personally believe that Pope is more electrifying than Howard ever was. DGL receiver or not, Pope is a beast, and I expect him to challenge Thomas as our deep threat receiver this year.
WR. 6’3″ 210 Sophomore.
Hightower saw action in 10 games in regular season and made two starts. Hightower had four catches for 60 yards and one touchdown.
Brian Hightower or Mr. Touchdown as I like to call him is our best possession receiver on the team. He also seems to find a way to make big catches at big moments, and he has a knack for getting into the endzone. Look for Hightower to do the same this year in a breakout season for the Canes. I see him being used in critical 3rd down situations and in the red zone. I think Hightower becomes a go-to receiver when we need a first down. He is just that kind of receiver. He is great in traffic and just has a knack for making tough catches.
WR. 6’3″ 195. Sophomore.
Wiggins saw action in all 13 games and made three starts in the regular season. Wiggins caught seven passes for 73 yards. Wiggins became a staff favorite last year, and I for one just love this kid. With great hands and size, Wiggins could very easily become a starter at any point during the season. Wiggins just has so much talent, it will be impossible to keep him off the field.
WR. 6’1″ 186. Freshmen.
The 4* freshmen out of Neptune Beach will see plenty of playing time in 2019. I’m calling it right now, Payton will have an Ahmmon Richards like freshman year. He is simply that good. The best thing about Payton, he is all Cane all the time.
WR. 5’11”. 180. JUNIOR.
Few saw action in four games, largely on special teams. As much as I like Few, there is just too much talent in front of him and I see him once again being a special teams player.
So there you have it, our 2019 WR breakdown. Just one question really remains. Who will be the two or three kids to step up and become the leaders of this highly talented WR room? Honestly, your guess is as good as mine because there is so much talent there.