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Tuesday Morning Brews (8/12/14)

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Float Like a Butterfly...

...sting like a bee. Receiver is a glamour position, but also perhaps an underrated one. Good ones run their routes with purpose, juking corners at the right time and are able to read defenses to know where to get open. They also help open up the running game, and wait patiently for the half-dozen or so moments when they can have a huge impact on the game. People fawn over speed, but savvy, durability, and that inscrutable focus at just the right moments are what separate the good from the great.

Preseason Watch List (Wide Receivers)
Conf. School Class Yards YPC Catch Rate
ACC DUKE Sr. Jamison Crowder
1,360 12.6 65.1%
ACC PITT So. Tyler Boyd
1,174 13.8 71.4%
ACC FSU Sr. Rashad Greene
1,128 14.8 67.3%
ACC LOU Sr. DeVante Parker
885 16.1 68.8%
B1G MICH Jr. Devin Funchess
748 14.8 53.3%
B1G MARY Jr. Stefon Diggs
587 17.3 60.7%
Big 12 KSU Sr. Tyler Lockett
1,262 15.6 71.1%
Big 12 BAY Sr. Antwan Goodley
1,339 18.9 66.1%
Big 12 OKLA Jr. Sterling Shepard
603 11.8 68.0%
Pac-12 UTA Sr. Dres Anderson
1,002 18.9 50.5%
Pac-12 USC Jr. Nelson Agholor
918 16.4 62.9%
Pac-12 STAN Sr. Ty Montgomery 958 15.7 62.2%
SEC MISS So. Laquon Treadwell
608 8.4 74.2%
SEC ALA Jr. Amari Cooper 736 16.4 -
SEC MSST Sr.
Jameon Lewis
923 14.4 63.4%

Some of these players have already gotten a lot of hype. Amari Cooper might be the most celebrated receiver in the country, thanks to playing for the Crimson Tide, but in that sense I think he is overrated. He has NFL speed and a durable, 6'1", 215-pound frame, but he would put up much better numbers in another offensive system. Saban uses him for a little of everything, but he's often running routes in the flat and will take sweeps and screen passes as well. However, he's not a quick-twitch athlete in short spaces, and he'd be better in a Devin Smith-type role, regularly running deep downfield. Saban likes to operate a possession offense, but Cooper is a clear reason to break that tendency. He is a perfect deep threat, and not used enough for it.

Jameon Lewis is in a similar situation at Mississippi State - his quarterback, Dak Prescott, is a big, quick runner and does not have the touch or the ability to regularly throw deep to someone like Lewis. Still, Lewis is a fun player to watch, and someone Mississippi State has used in a lot of ways: he also ran 13 times for 9.0 yards a carry, and threw for 3 other touchdowns. All told, he got 1,621 yards.

Treadwell worked as the #2 receiver last year to Donte Moncrief, and usually operated in the slot. He's bulked up to near 230 pounds, and Bo Wallace and Hugh Freeze will lean on him to propel the passing game. Devin Funchess and Stefon Diggs are worthy talents, but the Big Ten has leaned for too long on two-star receivers like Eric Decker (now a New York Jet, once a two-star receiver for Minnesota) and Kevonte Martin-Manley, and three-star receivers like Allen Robinson and B.J. Cunningham.

Some of the very best receivers reside in the Big 12 - no conference has a trio like Shepard, Goodley, and Lockett. Look for Shepard to become the main focus of Trevor Knight; outside of the 5'10", 195-pound Shepard, the team returns 17 catches and 228 yards from a year ago. Also, a shout-out has to go to the unknown and stellar Tyler Boyd, who put up an elite catch rate and almost 1,200 yards for a 7-6 team.

Hitting the Links Works Toward Its Goals

The Pivot, Dontre Wilson

Wilson has bulked up to 195 pounds, and seems eager and desperate to prove himself to Urban Meyer.

The Myth, Jalin Marshall

Marshall, who redshirted last year, is similarly eager to make a statement among the receiving corps. The Buckeyes have gotten a number of slim, fast players, and Marshall is very similar to Dontre Wilson in that way. What isn't clear is if Marshall has the requisite skills to turn his hype (a near-five-star recruit) into production.

The Image, Urban Meyer

Meyer is an interesting figure. Listening to him in press conferences and interviews, it becomes apparent how different he is from most other coaches. He's vibrant - getting visibly excited about certain players, for instance - but alternatively very thoughtful and reflective. Most coaches are very walled off, and Meyer is not.

ACL Injury for Nebraska LB Michael Rose

A possible starter at middle linebacker, this affects Nebraska's defense, for sure, but I also included it for his reactions. Injuries and recoveries are a big part of life for football players, and always a difficult one. The loss of Rose, an Academic All-Big Ten, is one of a several recent blows to NU's defense, as this elaborates.

...ACL Injury for Starting Oregon LT

This comes right after just recovering from an ACL injury.

Maryland, ACC Reach Settlement

You've probably heard about this, but it goes into some detail.

247 Preseason All-Big Ten

Not a lot of surprises, but they cheated by moving Taiwan Jones back outside.

Greatest Games to Watch This Season

Even some of the 'Others to watch' look fantastic.

USA Today's Michigan Preview

This goes into a lot of depth. The high point was actually our Notre Dame win, or else the Minnesota win, but it was a good line in there about us meeting a Big Ten foe (in Northwestern) equally capable of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

Suspension for Venric Mark

Mark will sit out against Cal and Northern Illinois; no details have been provided.

St. Louis Rams Preview

This was interesting, informative and easy to read - read up on a team trying to fight with both San Francisco and Seattle for the NFC West crown.

The State of College Football TV

SI has been producing a lot more college football content lately, but Richard Deitsch is still the best.

SI's List of Recruits to Watch

A number of these 2015 and '16 recruits are recognizable: Harris, Campbell, Byron Cowart. Ohio State is leading for Torrance Gibson, by the way.

SI: Chris Petersen, Ty Montgomery, and Eastern Michigan

This had interesting stuff from start to finish. I'd recommend reading about how Petersen focused on bringing the team closer together, and also what Creighton has done since joining the Eagles. Further down, Malik McDowell is also discussed.

Recruiting and Helicopters

Next they'll be recruiting with British villains. Hey, wait a minute....

NFL Will Limit Draft Evaluations

I would be curious to understand the NFL's rationale for this before making a firmer judgment, but what's certain is this will affect talented teams the hardest, and will make some awkward situations for those teams.

Michigan State's 'Intriguing' Receiver Options

The M.O. under Dantonio has usually been a handful of receivers, almost all of them three stars, who get somewhere between 500-600 yards each. In fact, B.J. Cunningham, the Spartans' leader in all-time receptions and yards and top ten in both categories in Big Ten history, had one 1,300-yard season in 2011 and then all 500- and 600-yard campaigns. When Dantonio recruits an impressive athlete, you can usually bet they're going to be a running back, a linebacker, or a safety.

Classic Mark Dantonio Press Conference

While we're on the subject of Michigan State's receivers, here's a classic press conference from Mark Dantonio where he publicly criticizes the whole position group.

Montae Nicholson Impressing Dantonio

Good, another track star. The Big Ten can use some of that speed Nicholson has. Also, at wide receiver, apparently.

Santonio Holmes TD

I remember getting chills watching this (probably because I was rooting for the Jets, I must confess). It was one of my better sports-watching memories and an amazing image after a 3rd and 4 touchdown catch.

Kenzel Doe Kick Return

Geez, he is fast.

Touchdown Run for Melvin Gordon

Great speed, and pinpoint control. Tough to stop that.

Amazing Interception by Ricardo Allen

I really wish I had a better view of that, cuz I'm not sure how he came up with that and kept his balance.

Akeem Shavers TD

...And this is probably an even more amazing highlight.

Muhammad Ali Highlights

If you didn't catch it, the title to the wide receivers preview was a reference to Muhammad Ali, who is attributed with the phrase, 'Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.' This got me looking up videos of Ali's boxing, and he is amazing, and he fits that phrase exactly. I would say highlights of the highlights are at 1:43, the knockout at 2:00, and 3:53, but it's all great.