New coach Dave Clawson faces the daunting task of piecing together a solid receiving corps following the loss of dynamic receiver Michael Campanaro to graduation and young upstart Sherman Ragland due to some off-the-field issues. Who will step up as a playmaker at the receiving position? Here are the prime candidates:
Tyree Harris (So.): Despite not getting much run at the beginning of his freshman season, Tyree Harris evolved into a playmaker towards the end of the season after he got some playing time from the staff. Overall he caught 23 passes last year for 225 yards, most notably hauling in a 56 yard bomb against Miami to put the Deacons in scoring position. In the spring game Harris caught two passes for 50 yards. He is still seeking his first touchdown as a Demon Deacon, but with his size and athleticism it is only a matter of time before Harris sneaks into the end zone. Harris is slated as one of the starters on the outside and barring a big shakeup, he will likely be on the field for the first few offensive snaps of the season down in Louisiana.
Jared Crump (RS So.): Opposite Harris, Jared Crump is likely to see a lot of playing time on the outside and is currently penciled in near the top of the depth chart on his side of the field. Playing in 11 of 12 games last season, Crump accumulated 16 catches for 176 yards and tacked on a touchdown in a 28-13 win over N.C. State to help fuel the Deacs to the victory. He was also a popular target in last weekend’s spring game with six catches for 85 yards. Crump was impressive throughout spring practice and along with Harris will be relied upon throughout the season as a guy who needs to come up with some big catches.
E.J. Scott (Sr.): Scott, a graduate transfer from Virginia, will be eligible to play right away and the Deacs will expect him to step in and take over the hole at the flanker spot left by Campanaro’s departure. Scott caught 32 passes in his career at Virginia and at 5’11" 185 lbs will be reliant upon his bursts of speed and route running to get separation from the defensive secondary. Clawson will likely try to get Scott the ball in the open field to keep the defense honest and attempt to break open some plays down field.
Jonathan Williams (RS So.): Williams caught 17 passes for 221 yards last season, but 13 of those 17 catches were in the first three games of the season. Even with Camp’s injury later in the season, Williams did not get a lot of playing time down the stretch but did snag two catches for nine yards in the finale against Vanderbilt. Williams will likely start the season as the third receiver behind Crump and Harris on the outside, but he will certainly see the field a decent amount as the season unfolds. He caught two passes for nine yards in the spring game.
Matt James (RS Sr.): Matt James will likely enter the final season of his college career slightly behind Crump and Harris on the depth chart, but like Williams he will see plenty of game time over the course of the season. James appeared in four games last year, as he was hindered by a collarbone injury, and caught four passes for 39 yards. In the spring game James caught three passes for 28 yards and recorded the lone receiving touchdown of the game.
Brandon Terry (RS Sr.): Terry almost certainly enters his final season at Wake as the best blocking receiver on the team. Despite being plagued with the drops every now and then, Terry does a great job of maintaining his contact with defenders and opening up gaps to the outside when he is in. In addition to his blocking abilities, Terry caught one pass for eight yards last year and appeared in nine games. He will likely see some backup duty throughout the year.
John Armstrong (So.): Armstrong was converted to the flanker position in the offseason and will likely be the backup to Scott to start the year. He had a decent freshman year with 14 carries for 70 yards as well as seven catches for 47 yards. In eight games over the season, Armstrong recorded a catch in seven of them with the lone game where he did not record a catch being his college opener against Presbyterian. Armstrong has excellent speed and put it to use returning kicks last year taking eight kicks back for a total of 150 yards.
Kameron Uter: Uter committed to Wake over Vanderbilt and is likely to see a lot of playing time this upcoming season. A dual-sport athlete who will probably also play baseball at Wake provides an interesting scenario as there is a legitimate concern that he will leave after three years in the MLB draft, indicating that the Deacs may want to play him as soon as possible. Uter is ranked as the 24th best receiver in his class by Rivals and at 6’4", 205 lbs will be expected to be a difference-maker right off the bat.
Jaylan Barbour: A small, quick receiver who is able to exploit gaps in the defense, Barbour was brought in to fill in the Campanaro/Givens mold who can line up in the slot and punish the defense from the inside out. Barbour will have an opportunity to get some playing time, but is probably behind Armstrong and Scott on the depth chart at this current moment. Once Barbour gets on campus in the fall he will be competing almost immediately for a spot on the field and the competition should increase the level of play across the flanker position for the team.
Cortez Lewis: Lewis, a commit from Alabama, rounds out the incoming receiving corps and at 6’2", 200 lbs, is a solid asset alongside the bigger Uter and the agile Barbour. Lewis may be redshirted this year as there is some congestion down the depth chart for receivers, but with some good play early on in practice there is certainly a possibility that Lewis will see some playing time as the season progresses.
The corps overall will experience some growing pains as the season gets underway, but by the end of the year there is hope that these guys will develop into a formidable weapon for the Demon Deacon offense. If any of the receivers indicate an ability to get open down field, Clawson will make sure the ball finds a way to get to them more frequently. This receiving corps is setting up to be a dynamic group over the next couple of years.