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Baylor Football 2014 Position Previews: Inside Receivers

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We're breaking things up with the receivers today, looking first at the guys on the inside that help make our offense so lethal.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

A year ago, I included all 14 of the receivers on Baylor's team in one post.  Altogether, it had over 2700 words, which is just far too many.  Considering there are now 17 listed, there's no way I'm doing that again.  Instead, I'm breaking things up between inside and outside receivers, a distinction that probably means less than most fans think but that gives me a convenient way to not spend 3 hours writing this post.  To do so, we're going to have to eschew the roster if only a little bit; Baylor has just 4 of 17 receivers listed as being "inside receivers," and I'm pretty sure that's not actually the case.  I'll note for each player how and why they are likely to be used, especially since it's not nearly so neat as "this guy plays in the slot, this guy on the edge," as we saw last year when Tevin Reese lined up just about everywhere.

Speaking of Mr. Reese, he's the big loss from last year to this, and his role in the offense, if not his persona and impact, will need to be replaced.

Eligibility Remaining
No. Player Year Ht/Wt. Position 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
42 Levi Norwood
SR 6-2/200 Inside Receiver




23 Clay Fuller
SR 6-2/205 Inside Receiver




80 Cal Spangler
JR 5-11/185 Inside Receiver




1 Corey Coleman
JR 5-10/190 Inside Receiver




84 Lynx Hawthorne
JR
6-0/200 Inside Receiver




9 K.D. Cannon
SO 5-11/160 Inside Receiver
18 Chris Platt
RS-FR 5-9/160 Inside Receiver

I beefed things up just a bit here with the inclusion of 2 of the 4 Horsemen, Platt and Cannon, along with Lynx Hawthorne, who was listed as an IR for all of last season but is now a WR.  In reality, it probably doesn't matter; our offense often employs players you might classify as IRs on the outside, though the inverse isn't really true.

Looking at this list in general, it would seem that the opportunity exists for a true freshman like Cannon to make an impact.  Of the 5 players "ahead" of him (the list is by seniority, obviously), 3 are what I'd call established players.  Just 2 of those, Norwood and Coleman, are likely to receive the bulk of their playing time at IR where Fuller might get considerable time on the outside, as well.  Considering last season we often saw a number of players move through the IR spot, including those three plus Reese, it may be possible for Cannon to carve himself out some playing time.  That's especially true if he is everything he's been billed to be thus far.  Until he does/is, however, I'm going to assume that he will redshirt.  We'll do the same with Davion Hall and Ishmael Zamora tomorrow; after all, the point of this is to see how the roster looks now and going forward, and the best-case scenario for all of them (and the team as a whole) is probably to redshirt this season.

Levi Norwood -- SR -- #42 -- 6-2, 200 pounds

Baylor's special team wizard is back for his senior season in the green and gold after consecutive years of 40+ catches.  Interestingly, though he only caught 7 more passes last year, Norwood upped his yardage by nearly 250 yards, pushing his yards per catch from a good 12.2 to an excellent 15.6.  His year-by-year stats:

Receiving Rushing Scrimmage
Year School Conf Class Pos G Rec Yds Avg TD Att Yds Avg TD Plays Yds Avg TD
*2011 Baylor Big 12 FR WR 13 6 87 14.5 0 6 87 14.5 0
*2012 Baylor Big 12 SO WR 13 40 487 12.2 1 3 20 6.7 1 43 507 11.8 2
*2013 Baylor Big 12 JR WR 13 47 733 15.6 8 47 733 15.6 8
Career Baylor 93 1307 14.1 9 3 20 6.7 1 96 1327 13.8 10
Provided by Sports-Reference.com/CFB: View Original Table
Generated 8/6/2014.

Honestly, Norwood's page at Sports-Reference is just a treasure trove of interesting statistics.  Did you know he scored at least one touchdown in each of Baylor's last 6 games last season, including 2 in his breakout 7/156 game against Texas Tech (plus another via punt return)?  What about the fact that if you add his punt and kick returns, as well as his passing (1/1 for 41 yards) to his receiving, he was actually the #2 player on the team last year in total yards behind Antwan Goodley?  It's this kind of information that you only find out when you're obsessed enough to write or read posts like this.

Going into 2014, it seems a given at this point that Levi will lock down one of the two nominal starting spots at IR (I say nominal because that's how it's listed on the depth chart, even though we don't always play two IR at the same time).  He was the second-leading receiver on the team last year that improved tremendously as the season went on to the point that he actually had more catches (28) than Goodley (27) in our last five games.  The incredible thing about Norwood is his body control.  That's a function of athleticism and hard work, and it makes a guy like Norwood extremely dangerous both in returns and as a receiver.  Combine that with his surehandedness, and it's easy to see why/how he became such a favorite of Bryce Petty down the stretch.

Clay Fuller -- SR -- #23 -- 6-2, 205

A year after catching just  passes for 39 yards in 2012, Fuller exploded onto the scene in 2013, catching 32 for 512 and 3 TDs.  Those stats were good for fifth, fifth, and fourth on the 2013 Bears, respectively.  Fuller is now a senior in 2014 and definitely the elder statesman of this particular group at 27 years old.  Fuller's primary attribute, as we talked about last year with regard to his minor league baseball career, is definitely his speed.  How Baylor uses him will be interesting to watch; as I mentioned above, my guess is that he might be one of the ones to benefit most from the departure of Robbie Rhodes, a move that may push him outside to compete with Jay Lee.  I'm including him here because he's listed as an IR and played it at several times last season, but that's something to watch.

Receiving Rushing Scrimmage
Year School Conf Class Pos G Rec Yds Avg TD Att Yds Avg TD Plays Yds Avg TD
*2011 Baylor Big 12 JR WR 13 1 4 4.0 0 1 4 4.0 0
*2012 Baylor Big 12 JR WR 12 3 39 13.0 0 3 39 13.0 0
*2013 Baylor Big 12 JR WR 12 32 512 16.0 3 32 512 16.0 3
Career Baylor 36 555 15.4 3 36 555 15.4 3
Provided by Sports-Reference.com/CFB: View Original Table
Generated 8/6/2014.

Why can't I hold all these 15+ yards per catch receivers?  It's like the Brileses and Montgomery are breeding them somewhere.  I've never been to Bulverde, Texas.  Sounds made-up to me.

Cal Spangler -- JR -- #80 -- 5-11, 185 pounds

In 2013, Cal Spangler (and it's Cal, not Carl.  Sorry, Cal), caught 1 pass for 1 yard against ULM.  He also returned 2 punts against Wofford.  We won both of those games convincingly, and I'm giving no small share of that credit to Spangler.  I keep seeing his name pop up in scrimmage reports every time Baylor has one, so he's clearly a useful player to have around.  I'll be watching to see if he doesn't get the benefit of our coaches' desire to redshirt Cannon and Platt and rack up a few yards in garbage time early in the season.

Corey Coleman -- SO -- #1 -- 5-10, 190 pounds

Now we've arrived at the popular pick for many right now for Baylor's breakout offensive player of 2014.  Last year, as a redshirt freshman, Coleman announced his presence with gusto, racking up 527 yards and 2 TDs on 35 catches and 483 more returning kicks.  One of those returns was the coup de grace basically as time expired against Iowa State that put Baylor over 70 points for the fourth time in five games.  I like to think that in doing so, he took out his anger at having to sit out the first half against the Cyclones because the Big 12 is ridiculous.*

*THAT WAS A LEGAL PLAY THAT DIDN'T EVEN EARN A FLAG DURING THE GAME ITSELF.

His stats last season:

Receiving Rushing Scrimmage
Year School Conf Class Pos G Rec Yds Avg TD Att Yds Avg TD Plays Yds Avg TD
*2013 Baylor Big 12 FR WR 12 35 527 15.1 2 35 527 15.1 2
Career Baylor 35 527 15.1 2 35 527 15.1 2
Provided by Sports-Reference.com/CFB: View Original Table
Generated 8/6/2014.

Coleman's was a solid debut season in just about every respect, and expectations are high for the third-year sophomore going forward.  He possesses a positively Kendall Wright-ian combination of speed and quickness, and my guess is that by the end of this year, that comparison will be commonplace.  Coleman should start again this year opposite Norwood and play extremely well.

Lynx Hawthorne -- SO -- #84 -- 6-0, 200 pounds

Hawthorne, a member of the same 2012 recruiting class as Coleman, didn't really get on the field much last year in a crowded receiving corp, and caught just 2 passes for 14 yards.  I'm not sure what a reasonable expectation would be for him this coming year because we've seen so little of him.  He's drawn comparison from me and others in the past to Norwood, but there are so many other mouths to feed in this offense, it's almost unfair.  Still, if he's playing receiver for Baylor, he's one to watch, and he still has 3 full years of eligibility to make his mark for the Bears.  He'll be a member of the All-Name Team as long as he's here.

K.D. Cannon -- FR -- #9 -- 5-11, 160 pounds

The highest-rated recruit in our 2014 class, Cannon arrived at Baylor this summer with expectations galore and rumors that he planned to play immediately.  We'll have to see if that bears out, but the sky is the limit for Cannon as far as potential.  He's the kind of guy that draws eyes as soon as he gets close to a football field, and we've seen Baylor play guys like that early before with Wright and Rhodes. It may be difficult for our coaching staff to stop themselves from giving Cannon a shot, especially after he took the 100m in the state track meet with a 10.32.

Other than a picture or two from those in attendance, we haven't heard much, if anything, about Cannon from the first couple of days of practice.  Until we do, it's hard to say whether he has a real shot at playing this year.  If he does, it seems like he's got a chance to make an impact behind Norwood and Coleman.  We'll just have to wait and see.  When asked a few weeks ago, Bryce Hager seemed to think he does.

Chris Platt -- FR -- #18 -- 5-9, 160 pounds

I guarantee you that when Baylor saw Chris Platt play, they saw in him a Tevin Reese starter kit if ever there was one.  He's got the same combination of blinding speed and a slight frame, and our coaches undoubtedly believe they can develop him along the same lines.  He's almost a lock to redshirt this year, which is why we won't include him in the Community Projections.  You won't see Platt this year, but you will in the future.  Guaransheed.

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Before closing things up, I want to stress again that the distinction between inside and outside receivers is largely meaningless except for a very few guys.  Baylor often moves guys around between the spots depending on matchups, so listing them as definitely one or definitely the other, unless you're talking about guys like Quan Jones or Jay Lee, doesn't make sense.  Still, I needed a place to draw the line between posts, so this is it.  There's a ton of talent here, both old and young, and plenty of opportunity with Reese gone to the NFL to make a mark.