Sometimes. It. Just. Won't. Quite. Work.
The forward pass has killed more than one career in the SEC. Anyone remember how that Gulf Coast Offense worked out for Al Borges? Not without train-wreck shivers running down their spine, they don't. And, my heavens, attempting to throw was more dangerous for John Parker Wilson than that walk back to his dorm after the UL-Monroe game. Even when it works out well, everything else seems not to fall into place, or, said more contemporaneously, it does not matter how many yards your Dick throws for when he only wins five games.
But now we live in a brave new world where the most sensational rising sophomore in the country is the former top-ranked recruit Julio Jones, wide receiver, Alabama. And he may not even be the best in the SEC West. Read, at your own peril, about innovative gravity-defying football after the jump.
The oft-told story about Archie Manning and Scott Hall aside, the recent history of Alabama's passing game has produced recievers of deserved repute. D.J. Hall is a former all-SEC player. Tyrone Prothro, tragically injured in the prime of his career, was the recipient of perhaps the most amazing catch in college football history. Julio Jones is now fodder for their t-shirts. But, beyond Jones, the corp of receivers is not very exciting. Mike McCoy is a senior with good size, but only caught 16 passes in 2008. The Tide is excited about Georgia Tech transfer Tight End Colin Peek, but there's a reason folks don't take tight ends in the first round of their fantasy drafts.
To hear the Hogs call it, Ryan Mallett could throw touchdowns to well-oiled armless chimps, but, while I am not accusing the Razorback receiving corp of simian tendancies, Bobby Petrino never has had a big-time receiver, even while coaching big-time quarterbacks Brian Brohm and Stefan LeFors. I would ask the community to name me one, but I recognize that somebody will try to be the smart kid in the room. Let me just admit that I cannot and move on. Of course, every major receiver from 2008 returns (including RB Michael Smith, who was third on the team with 298 yards). Their leading receiver in 2008 was D.J. Williams, the stocky tight end who caught 61 passes for 723 yards. Joe Adams, a sophomore, came on strong in the last half-dozen games with 377 yards, and London Crawford, who had big yards-per-catch averages under Houston Nutt, add electricity and experience.
Before asking crazy questions like, "Who will throw to Auburn's receivers," let's all just operate under the hypothetical that Kodi Burns will, sometimes, have days like he had against Ole Miss. Additionally, the great and powerful Malzahn has moved sometime Tiger running back Mario Fannin to a more Percy Harvin/Dexter McCluster role. The problem with this group is playing time. Everyone has been out. Tim Hawthorne broke his arm last spring, Terrell Zachery has missed time because of academics, as has Montez Billings. This unit has the speed of which I expect Malzahn to take advantage, and I expect Fannin to have a great year.
Brandon Lefell is a star. Richard Dickson is an All-SEC tight end. Trindon Holliday is the fastest man in college football. This is a unit where Terrance Tolliver, who averaged 24.7 yards per catch for the 2007 national championship edition Tigers, is sitting on the bench. The other wideout usually on the field will be Chris Mitchell, a senior. The receiving corp for the Bayou Bengals is deep, talented, fast, and experienced.
While the Bulldogs group of receivers is nothing to write home about it can take pride it two counts - it is neither the worst unit on the team nor the worst unit in the school's long history of air ambivalence. In fact, Brandon McRae is a real-live, honest-to-goodness weapon that other teams should worry about. The big senior caught 51 passes - three for touchdowns - last year. And Dan Mullen is promising to air it out a bit. Of course, the closest thing to "production" that the Bulldogs return, aside from McRae, is Anthony Dixon's 20 catches for 117 yards. Does anyone know what happened to Co-Eric Riley. His name was da bomb.
The Rebels return Shay Hodge and Dexter McCluster, clutch short range receivers known for their yards after the catch and Shay's sure hands. Replacing the big-play ability of Mike Wallace ought to be a major source of concern for Rebel fans. Allegedly, Lionel Breaux has the quickness to blow past the coverage and get the deep ball, and I saw some of this potential in the spring. Markeith Summers is, also, a steady option when Dexter lines up behind center. Patrick Patterson will surely also see time.
On a conclusory note ...
SEC West receivers will be converting a lot of third and longs this season.