John F. Silver
The Huskies have some ability at the top of the depth chart with leading receiver Geremy Davis (6-1, 217) and running mate Shakim Phillips (6-2, 204) locked in as the one and two receivers.
Davis and Phillips competed for time last year with Davis leading the team with 44 catches and 613 yards while Phillips shook off the rust with 32 catches and 399 yards after coming over as a transfer from Boston College and sitting out a year. Davis earned the No. 1 slot and Phillips showed just enough improvement and promise during the year to put the Huskies’ wide receiver corps with two athletic, big and experienced receivers going into 2013.
Davis may not be as tall as Phillips, but he is bigger, more muscular and a big target. He has improved his route running and his size creates the separation that his speed doesn’t. He’s a big target for quarterback Chandler Whitmer and while he hasn’t show the YAC that the coaching staff wants, is a dependable receiver who can get open by using his size. Davis is a bit of a gym rat in basketball terms. He was behind Phillips last year and earned the starting job the old-fashioned way by beating him out in summer camp and holding onto it in the fall. He has all the tools to be a terrific college receiver. Not quite a speed guy and isn’t going to make many people miss (at his size, that’s rare anyway). He can also be a force blocking in running game and is a valuable player.
Phillips is more of the big play guy. He can get open down the field and has deep threat ability. The coaching staff likes to get him going vertical down the sidelines and he and Whitmer have a nice button hook timing play that is not defendable when timed and executed correctly. He’s a red zone threat and the Huskies worked on that very much this spring. Even in the spring game, they threw several end zone fades to him down inside the 10. Phillips is bigger than most receivers, though not quite Davis’ build. I like his ability and potential and the Huskies do need to continue to get vertical with him.
Those two are by far UConn’s most experienced and well-built receivers. Both are juniors so the depth behind them can build with a little less pressure.
After the top 2 are a bunch of question marks and inexperience in a wide receiver corps that has had the most turnover in the last three years.
Right now, in the slot, the staff loves what Deshon Foxx did this spring. The converted running back has high-end speed and can be that home run threat. Nick Williams, who signed with the Redskins, flashed that ability once in awhile, but the offense could never seen to get into a rhythm to start spreading the ball around. If the Huskies can find a running game and get Phillips and Davis deep, Foxx can be a big factor in the slot. He is perfect size, speed and skill set for the position.
I am confident in the top three receivers in Davis, Phillips and Foxx to see the field. The Huskies need a minimum of three more and they would like five more to step in.
That’s a lot of receivers. Luckily, there are candidates.
First off is the holdovers in redshirt freshmen Ricky Gutierrez Jr. and John Green ready after sitting out a year. Gutierrez is an athletic receiver at 6-0, 166-pounds that could develop into a downfield threat. Green is a 5-10 160-pound kick-returner type of receiver and is destined for the slot. He’s good underneath and making people miss.
The Huskies have Kamal Abrams available, and the junior has had some playing experience in past years and is in the mix as the fourth wideout. Abrams was pushed into action as a true frosh on special teams and with depth, but hasn’t had many snaps in two years. It’s hard to gauge where and what he is.
The Huskies also had a pair of true freshman in camp in Noel Thomas and Dhameer Bradley. Both are prep school recruits and early enrollments this spring. That puts them on the fast track for development. Thomas is a bigger receiver at 6-1 171-pounds while Bradley is another athletic and quick player at 5-9, 168-pounds. Both are a little older and can step in and play — there certainly is the need.
Lastly, the Huskies are also welcoming in Brian LeMelle, a decorate recruit out of Pennsylvania with a big offer list. LeMelle profiles as a slot guy right away at 5-11, 175-pounds. He had over 1,500 yards receiving in high school and the staff feels he can come in and challenge for time right away.
The Huskies have two players in Davis and Phillips and a lot of question marks coming out of the spring. Foxx looks like he can be an explosive player, but the offense has to do a better job of exploiting that than they did with Nick Williams a year ago.
After that, it’s a lot of new faces that haven’t even taken a real snap and gotten hit in college football.
Davis and Phillips room with the quarterback in Whitmer. That’s the WR duo that will carry the Huskies in 2013.