Team Improvement - Wide Receivers
Heading into the 2006 season Fresno State looked to have possibly it's best group of veteran receivers ever to step onto the football field. Unfortunately the talent the Bulldogs possessed at the Wide Receiver position did not develop the way Fresno State had hoped it would. Joe Fernandez would be the only Senior Wide Receiver still playing by the time Fresno State reached it's game with San Jose to end the season. Both Paul Williams and Jaron Fairman sat out a good portion of 2006 due to injury leaving the Dogs with little experience at the Wide Receiver position. Although the Dogs lost these Seniors they were able to insert Freshman who developed a feel for what the college game was like. Receivers such as Chastin West, Jason Crawley, and Seyi Ajirotutu were able to step in and find some playing time along the way. With the additions of possibly two new receivers the Dogs may have a chance to once again possess a high powered passing game with more than one option to go to with the game on the line.
Having three young receivers such as those mentioned above will only help the Dogs as each of these receivers are Sophomores going into 2007. Seyi Ajirotutu looks to have the talent to take over games such as Bernard Berrian and Paul Williams both did during their Junior seasons. Ajirotutu is tall, athletic, fast, and has great hands. If he plays physical there will be no ball he cannot get his hands on. Jason Crawley showed in 2006 that he has great hands and can bring in those balls that most receivers would have trouble getting one hand on. But the most impressive of the three young receivers in 2006 had to be Chastin West. Although West does not possess blazing speed he was able to show that he could make the catch when the team needed him to most. He also did the best job of creating something out of nothing whether it was a short five yard route or an end around where West would be counted on to gain yards on the outside. These three receivers give the Bulldogs the opportunity to throw the ball with success once again. We all know that will depend on if Brandstater can get the ball to the receivers without problems, but these receivers need to run more efficient routes and step their game up when needed. While these receivers provide a strong foundation for the Dogs, two new possible additions may be what pushes Fresno State over the top.
The Bulldogs will welcome in Devon Wylie who probably will see time as a Wide Receiver due to his amazing speed and outstanding hands. Wylie will be used much in the same manner that Adam Jennings was: First and foremost he will be a kick returner but he is far too special to not have in the game from time to time making big plays for the Dogs. While Wylie will be a welcome addition to the offense the possible addition of Zeb White could help the Dogs create havoc at the WR position. White stands at 6'1" and weighs 180 pounds. He comes in with a 4.4 40 time meaning he has the kind of speed you want to see at WR. He currently plays for Fresno City College and would step into the spotlight at Fresno State as one of the go to receivers being that he would be in his Junior season. While it may be true that Fresno State has three returning receivers, they are all still relatively young and some experience at the position can only help when all is said and done. While White has not signed with the Dogs the possibility is there and if Fresno State can add him to the team they will head into 2007 with five WR's who can get the job done for them.
In order for 2007 to be a successful season Fresno State will have to find a way to develop the passing game once again. While it is true that a great deal of the passing game will lay on the shoulders of the QB the Wide Receivers will have to do their part as well. Whether it is running the correct routes, making the big catch, or blocking for the RB's, Fresno State will count on the WR's far more than they did in 2006. With the youth in this group there may be some growing pains, but overall the 2007 WR's will have a much more productive year than those in 2006.
Note: Tomorrow I will discuss the TE position and the Kicking game with respect to the offense. The day after I will talk about the Offensive Line and that will be it for the offensive side of the ball.