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2014 Wide Receiver Review

Louisville was the #47 passing offense in the country in 2014, down from #16 with Teddy Bridgewater and essentially the same wide receivers.  The biggest impact of this group was DeVante Parker who was drafted #14 overall in the 2015 NFL Draft.  Parker missed the first 7 games of the season and still managed to lead the Cards in receiving yards with 855 yards and 5 Touchdowns, which is easily the best 6 game performance as a WR in Louisville Football history.

Prior to DeVante’s return, Louisville was an offense that really lacked a true #1 WR presence.  James Quick did his best to fill the role, but found himself struggling to deal with the elevated pressure and attention opposing defenses paid to him. Quick did make a lot of big plays for Louisville and hauled in 36 balls for 566 yards and 3 Touchdowns, but there were some times where James’ wasn’t quite ready for the role that he was playing.

It did seem as if the Cards didn’t make full use of Eli Rogers despite the fact that Eli caught the most balls in 2014.  Rogers always presented himself with the easy reception and I don’t think the UofL QBs took advantage of the luxury that Eli really was last season.  Another seldom used weapon was Kai De La Cruz.  Kai has extreme athleticism and despite a few big plays and games never truly put that ability on display while at Louisville.  His 2 catches vs. Notre Dame were enormous.

Michaelee Harris never did return to form for the Cardinals and has since transferred to Akron to play his final year for the Zips, and senior Matt Milton was able to haul in only 3 balls in 2014. Louisville got elite level play from DeVante Parker, but there was some misuse of talent at the WR spot in 2014. Much of which rests on the inexperience of the QBs and the unfamiliarity of the coaching staff with the new players they had inherited. It’s clear that there was a plan to put DeVante Parker to use and then once Parker went down the WR plan had to be patched together…and yet the Cards still were able to win games.

Players Lost
DeVante Parker- 43 catches, 855 yards, 5 TDs
Eli Rogers – 45 catches, 525 yards, 3 TDs
Kai De La Cruz – 26 catches, 303 yards, 2 TDs
Michaelee Harris – 9 catches, 113 yards, 1 TD
Matt Milton – 3 catches, 85 yards
Cornelius Sturghill (moved to CB)

Numerical Roster
#1 Alphonso Carter 6-3, 205 Soph.
#2 Jamari Staples 6’4, 195, Jr.
#3 Pat Thomas 6’4, 190 Jr.
#12 Trey Smith 6-0, 215, Fr. (also listing at RB)
#15 Traveon Samuel 5-7, 175 Fr.
#17 James Quick 6-1, 191 Jr.
#19 Ja’Quay Savage 6’3, 214, Jr.
#26 Jalen Washington 5-7, 177 Fr.
#38 Chris Miele 6’2, 190 RS-Soph.
#80 Charles Standberry 6-3, 226 Soph. (also listing at TE)
#81 Emonee Spence 6-3, 194, Fr.
#82 Dontez Byrd 5-11, 170 RS-Soph.
#84 Colin Holba 6-5, 233 RS-Jr.
#84 Gio Pascascio 6-3, 185, Jr.
#85 Cody Swabek 6-1, 168 RS-Fr.
#86 Devonte Peete 6-6 203, Fr.
#87 Jaylen Smith 6-4 184, Fr.
#88 Javonte Bagley 6-3 192, Soph.

Projected Depth Chart
Ja’Quay Savage
Gio Pascascio OR
Emonee Spence
Jaylen Smith
Dontez Byrd

James Quick
Traveon Samuel
Charles Standberry (situational also at TE)
Trey Smith (also listing at RB)
Cody Swabek
Jalen Washington

Jamari Staples OR
Javonte Bagley OR
Alphonso Carter
Devante Peete
Pat Thomas
Colin Holba
Chris Miele

Examining the 2015 Group

Talent & opportunity.  That’s how this wide receiver group is going to be characterized.  There is so much talent lost but there is a great deal of talent gained as well and with that a ton of opportunity opens up for young players and the Louisville offense.  The depth chart listed above is a best guess (as they all are) going into camp on who might emerge in the given roles.  During camp, we’ll find out who goes where for sure as the WR position (along with the offensive line) might be one of the most difficult to project heading into Fall Camp.

Coming from Texas A&M Ja’Quay Savage (formerly Ja’Quay Williams) projects as Louisville’s #1 target at the WR position in 2015.  Savage is a high school teammate of Louisville CB Shaq Wiggins at Sandy Creek in Georgia.  Savage signed with Auburn originally out of high school and was the #14 WR in the country according to Rivals.com.  Instead of Auburn, Savage attended Fork Union Military Academy and played his true freshman year in college at Texas A&M catching passes from Johnny Manziel. In practice, Ja’Quay appears to best UofL’s best Wide Receiver and should have a firm hold on the XWR spot played by DeVante Parker a year ago.  Savage is not DeVante, but fans can expect him to have a big time season with big-time stats.

Behind Savage are a great deal of fantastic options.  Gio Pascascio is now reportedly Louisville’s fastest player and was a late addition to the program in the Summer of 2014.  Pascascio appeared to really grow in Spring Football.  Gio however, is going to be pushed for time by true freshman Emonee Spence who has impressed just about everyone in the program this summer in workouts.  Many believe that Emonee Spence can be the next great Louisville receiver and many compare his game to Harry Douglas.  So we’ll also look for him in the WWR role.  Jaylen Smith & Dontez Byrd are both capable players.  Smith is a true freshman that comes from Louisville’s favorite Pascagoula (MS) High School and will also factor in Louisville’s return game, but it is too early to guess how often he’ll be in Louisville’s WR rotation.  On the other hand Dontez Byrd knows the offense as a walk-on and got a lot of valuable time on the field last year, he plays hard, he plays smart and it should come as no surprise if Dontez makes a key play for Louisville in 2015 to win a game.  He’s a ball player.

In the slot, James Quick is set to thrive in a role that is best suited for his skill set.  In the WWR role Quick will be able to get the ball into his hands quickly in space and will have the opportunity to make plays.  Last year Quick operated mostly on the outside against #1 and #2 CBs.  In this role, Quick will be lined up against nickels, safeties, and linebakers.  Also look for the coaching staff to mix in true freshman Traveon Samuel with his electrifying play-making ability for the same reason.  Samuel will also be a big factor in Louisville’s return game this season.

Situationally it will be interesting to see how Charles Standberry is utilized in 2015.  Standberry was exclusively a TE last season and actually caught Louisville’s 1st Touchdown of the season and also Petrino called his number on a key 4th down vs. Florida State. Charles has dropped some weight, but could also be used some back at tight end if necessary.  It’s clear that Standberry is a talent that Petrino wants to utilize so watching this develop will be an interesting aspect of the Cardinal offense in 2015.  We also need to keep an eye on Trey Smith, a true freshman from Madison Central.  Trey is the son of Jacksonville Jaguar great Jimmy Smith and played multiple positions in high school so we are also listing him at Running Back potentially. Trey’s position is likely not going to be settled early as he is a dynamic athlete, which is also why we are putting him in the slot. Walk-ons Cody Swabek and Jalen Washington are candidates to round out the group.

At the ZWR position there is all kinds of talent for Lamar Thomas to work with.  Jamari Staples comes to Louisville after transferring from UAB.  Jamari has played in this offense with Garrick McGee previously and had a fantastic freshman year with Coach McGee.  He’s certainly capable of making an impact as a freshman in Conference USA, the question is whether or not Staples can produce in the ACC.  Javonte Bagley is likely primed to really impact the Louisville offense after seeing limited action last year as a true freshman.  Bagley has big time ability and may also play some XWR.  Also in the mix for #1 here is Alphonso Carter (formerly Paul Harris) who transfers from Iowa Western and Tennessee.  Carter was a 4-star WR out of H.S. in Maryland and has made an impression with the coaches in workouts.   All 3 of these wide receivers will play and compete for time in 2015.  Fall Camp will determine which player plays the most and how much of an impact each of them make but there is a TON of talent here.

But don’t forget about true freshman Devante Peete from Pompano Beach, FL.  Peete was a 4-star propsect out of a high school and a Top 300 player.  Devante has a big frame and many think that he may move to Tight End at some point.  But for now, Peete is a WR and it is entirely possible that he makes an impact this year but there is a great deal of talent with a lot of experience already in place.  He has an opportunity in Fall Camp.  Also be on the lookout for where Pat Thomas is placed and how well he plays. Pat moved from QB and appears to have athleticism but how he fits as a WR remains to be seen.  Colin Holba is another big target that was in the mix during the Spring and he is also a Long Snapper for the Cards.  Chris Miele rounds out the group as a walk-on.

Ultimately this WR group is stacked with possibilites. But there really isn’t a single player outside of James Quick who has done much with UofL.  Jamari Staples has had success at UAB and everyone else here we are projecting based on potential.  Lamar Thomas, Garrick McGee, and Bobby Petrino have a nice canvas here and the good news is that they can mold this group to play their style of football.  It’s going to be fun to watch….get ready for a lot of moving around.

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@UofLSheriff50. Louisville native, University of Louisville Business School Grad c/o 2004. Co-Founder of TheCrunchZone.com

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