Any time you lose a player like Terrance Williams that, by himself, accounted for over 1,800 receiving yards, a Baylor record, your position group is going to suffer. There's almost no way around it. But we didn't just lose TWill to the NFL, we lost his partner, Lanear Sampson, a starter for each of the last two years, as well. Sampson didn't have the numbers Terrance had, but he was a steady, reliable receiver whose biggest strength might have been his ability to block on the edge. Together, the pair racked up 56% of our receiving yards last season and nearly 51% of our receptions, numbers that will have to be replaced.
The good news is that since I brought up this issue in the spring, things have naturally sorted themselves out a bit. Several players given opportunities then performed well and look capable of stepping up this year. At least one major recruit is wowing coaches in a short sample this week after putting in the work over the summer. What looks like a weakness, due to inexperience, may end up a strength, due to the sheer level of talent our coaches have to work with. Let's take a look, based off the current roster.
I'm starting here with the inside receivers, since what they do in our system is very different than what our wide receivers do. When you think IRs, think Kendall Wright his first couple of seasons. When you think WRs, think Terrance Williams. Hopefully, in this group we've got another Kendall Wright.*
*This past season, Antwan Goodley would have been grouped with the IRs, but it sounds like they're going to give him a chance at WR, where he's listed on the roster. These distinctions aren't as hard-and-fast as I'm probably making them seem, and guys move around occasionally. His last year here, KW played all over the dang field.
Tevin Reese -- SR -- #16 -- 5-10, 170 pounds
Tevin Reese came to Baylor as a track star who played football. He wasn't ranked very highly and had no other offers than Baylor at the time of his commitment to the Bears. He'll leave as one of the most explosive playmakers in our history, owner of the single-season record for yards per reception. His straight-line speed is, without question, incredible, and if he can get the ball in space, you might as well strike up the band. He returns for his senior year as the most-experienced receiver we have, inside or out, and the leader in the clubhouse to be Bryce Petty's favorite target.
It's going to be really interesting to see how, coming off two years of relatively similar production, Reese's usage changes this season. I've written before that although he is obviously talented and works well in our system, I question just how much our staff wants to rely on him given his smaller stature and problems in the past catching the ball. What I mean by that is when the time comes to project his performance (we haven't gotten to him yet in the ODB Community Projections), I think the numbers are going to skew high based on trust alone. I don't see him catching 100+ balls his senior year like Kendall did.
That said, I'd bet on him leading the team in receptions from the inside receiver spot, cresting 1,000 yards in his final year and providing highlight reel plays based on pure speed. If he returns a punt or two, as has been rumored in the early going of practice this week, that's just that much better. Reese is a starter without a doubt.
Levi Norwood -- JR -- #42 -- 6-1, 185 pounds
Levi, whose dad is on the Baylor coaching staff, came into his own last year as Nick Florence's safety blanket. He's not the fastest or the strongest receiver we have, but when we absolutely needed a catch, we often saw the ball go his way. His sure-handedness has also earned him a spot as our primary punt returner the last two years, where his job is mainly to not mess up and give the ball back to our offense in one piece.
This year, Norwood will look to build on his breakout season, and he enters camp as perhaps the favorite to start at IR opposite Reese. Whether he is able to keep that spot will be something to watch, because behind him stand a very talented pair of freshmen looking to do this year what he did last.
Carl Spangler -- SO -- #80 -- 5-11, 180 pounds
I'm not sure how much you'll see from Carl this year. He's another walk-on, of which our program has quite a few at this point, and he has no stats to report. It's possible that he could see some early action this season, provided he's not redshirting (he may have already) in our non-conference schedule, particularly if Seth Russell and the second offense take the field.
Corey Coleman -- RS-FR -- #1 -- 5-10, 190 pounds
This is one of the guys I really can't wait to see. Lost somewhat in the excitement of this past recruiting class over Robbie Rhodes, Coleman came to Baylor as one of the best WR recruits in the country, packaged as a Kendall Wright starter kit from Day 1. He sat out last season to redshirt and preserve eligibility, and battled hamstring issues along the way. Now that he's healthy and running 4.4 40s again, it's time for him to step up and turn potential into reality.
I look for Coleman to push Norwood for the second IR spot, perhaps starting sooner rather than later. Like I said, he's one I can't wait to see.
Lynx Hawthorne -- RS-FR -- #84 -- 5-11, 200 pounds
Perennial member of the Baylor All-Name team, Lynx is the other member of the 2012 recruiting class on this list. He reminds me a lot of Levi Norwood, actually, and because he is not quite as fast as Coleman or Reese, if he's going to play, it will be in a similar role. The coaching staff reportedly loves him, so I would expect to see him this season at some point. He has a reputation as one of the hardest working players on the team from what I've heard, and hard work off the field tends to mean more time on it.
That's a lot of receivers, so we'll take them one at a time. You probably noticed right away that although he is a freshman, I don't have Rhodes redshirting like his fellow class-of-2013er Quan Jones. That is intentional. I don't think they're going to redshirt him.
Antwan Goodley -- JR -- #5 -- 5-10, 220 pounds
Goodley is a running back playing wide receiver, that's as simple as it gets. He's a bowling ball made of solid iron, and strength is by far his best asset. I expect for Goodley to be in the running for a starting spot on the outside, and play well there if given the chance. His height isn't ideal for the position, but his strength and quickness make him difficult for most corners to defend, and he should put up decent numbers. He's also been one of our primary kick returners each of the last two years. I expect he will continue in that role in 2013.
|Kick Ret||Punt Ret|
Don't be surprised if, with the early absence of Glasco Martin limiting our options somewhat in the running game, you see a lot of jet sweeps featuring Goodley or plays where we actually run him out of the backfield. Baylor will do whatever it takes to get him the ball.
Clay Fuller -- JR -- #23 -- 6-1, 205 pounds
Full disclosure -- Clay Fuller is one of my favorite players on the team. He's actually 26 years old already, having spent 6 seasons playing minor league baseball in the Los Angeles Angels organization, topping out in 2011 at AA Arkansas. He was an outfielder during his baseball days, and it doesn't take a genius to figure out why: he's ridiculously fast. This past Spring, he set a personal record with a 4.34 40, .01 faster than Tevin Reese. That's fast. He's in the mix on the outside for the Bears this fall, his junior year, after having caught 4 passes total in the last 2. Don't hold the fact that he's been sitting behind guys like TWill, Lanear, and Reese against him; he's extremely talented, as he showed in our Spring Game in April when he led the team in receptions and yards.
Jay Lee -- SO -- #4 -- 6-3, 210 pounds
Jay Lee has no stats to report because, for some reason, Jay Lee didn't play at all in his redshirt freshman year. Someday, I'd like to ask Kendall Briles, our WR coach, why that happened. You don't typically see 6-3 WRs who can run in the 4.4s not getting playing time, but then again, we did have one of the deepest WR corps in the country last year.
I'd like nothing more than for Lee, who worked as a starter off and on in the spring, to grab hold of one a starting job this year and not let go. He has the size and speed you look for on the outside; he just needs to be more consistent. So far, reports from practice are good, and I may get my wish. It's going to be up to Jay to decide how much he wants to play this season, because the sky is the limit.
Kaleb Moore -- RS-FR -- #82 -- 5-11, 190 pounds
Kaleb was a late addition to the 2012 recruiting class that not many people knew about when he committed. A track star in the mold of Tevin Reese, Kaleb redshirted last season before getting his chance this spring and impressing. Word is that his hands need work, so we may not get to see much of him this season, but down the road Baylor could have another quality receiver that many other teams overlooked.
Tyler Ellis -- RS-FR -- #89 -- 6-1, 205 pounds
Andy Ritter -- RS-FR -- #87 -- 6-2, 175 pounds
Brandon Brown -- RS-FR -- #26 -- 5-11, 185 pounds
A trio of walk-on redshirt freshman about whom I know very little. All will try to make a spot for themselves in a crowded group of WRs. Of the three, Brown is the only one whose name I had read before this latest roster, and that's only because he made a bit of a name for himself this past spring, catching 2 balls for 18 yards in the spring scrimmage.
Robbie Rhodes -- FR -- #3 -- 6-0, 184 pounds
This is the guy everybody wants to see-- the highest-ranked recruit Art Briles has ever gotten. He had offers from just about everybody when he committed to Baylor, ultimately choosing Art Briles' Bears over Texas in May, and now he is on-campus, ready to make good. Briles has been talking him up since he was first allowed to talk about him in February. I don't expect that to stop any time soon.
What I do expect is that Rhodes will play this season for the Bears rather than redshirt, simply because he's too good to keep off the field. I also expect that he will do so extremely well. All he did in high school, after all, was set a new national record for receiving yards and touchdowns in a game, with 384 and 8, respectively. From what I've read, Rhodes is already showing that he's the real deal.
BearsTruth's Justin Krainz posted a few quotes from Briles this morning that are, by themselves, worth the subscription. Here's my favorite:
"O Robbie is doing really fabulous. He's really a little further along than we thought he might be. Because he is a guy that doesn't back away from work. Alot of young guys, it takes them a while to adjust, it doesn't with Robbie. He's a tough guy mentally and loves his work and alot of natural abilities. So he's really a little further along than we thought."
Quan Jones -- FR -- #12 -- 6-4, 200 pounds
Quan is the other true freshman on this list, and the one I expect we'll have for a while after he redshirts this coming season. A highly sought-after recruit, Jones chose Baylor over a host of other schools fairly early in the process and never wavered. His primary attribute is his size -- he became somewhat famous last year for tweeting "I'm 6 foot 5, tho" repeatedly-- and he is a prototypical outside receiver. If he doesn't play this year, he shouldn't have to wait long in the future.
Unlike other positions where things were relatively set going into camp this year, aside from Tevin and Levi coming back, our receiver situation is anything but. Losing so much provides opportunity to go with uncertainty, and we'll have to see how things play out. One the inside, I'm on record as predicting that Reese will start, flanked by Norwood, with Coleman and Hawthorne backing them up, at least initially. On the outside, I see Goodley and Lee, backed up by Rhodes and Fuller. However it works out, we've seen enough by now to know that they will be productive, they will be disciplined, and at least a couple of them will make the NFL.