Sunday, October 26, 2014

Young receivers coming of age at UConn

Dhameer Bradley and Deshon Foxx were targeted 17 times against ECU.
Not that UConn fans want to ponder life without Geremy Davis but with the prolific senior receiver being knocked out of Thursday's loss to East Carolina in the first half with an ankle injury opportunity knocked for some of the Huskies' young receivers.

Fellow senior Deshon Foxx did finished with four catches for 120 yards including an 88-yard touchdown (the seventh longest offensive play in UConn history) to become the first Husky with multiple 100-yard receiving games in consecutive seasons since John Fitzsimmons accomplished the feat in the 1999 and 2000 seasons. Still, UConn's freshmen and sophomore skill position players were targeted 12 times in the second half. While these numbers are very unofficial as a handful of pass plays in the official box scores do not list an intended receiver but the East Carolina game marks the first time this season that underclassmen were target more and caught more passes than the junior and senior classes.

Foxx led the team with nine targets against the Pirates but sophomore Dhameer Bradley was targeted eight times (one more target than he saw in the first four games combined), sophomore Noel Thomas matched his season high with four targets. Freshman Thomas Lucas was targeted a season high three times (as was freshman tailback Josh Marriner) while sophomore Brian Lemelle was targeting for just the third time this season.

Thomas, Lemelle, Lucas, Marriner and freshman tailback Arkeel Newsome combined for 10 catches on 12 targets. Lucas' two catches went for 43 and 37 yards as he became the first UConn player with two catches of at least 35 yards in the same game since Nick Williams had catches of 49 and 64 yards against Buffalo on Sept. 24, 2011.

"They are going to continue to play more and more," UConn coach Bob Diaco said. "They now collectively need to grow up and mature, mature with how they prepare, prepare all week, prepare on the practice field, prepare in the meetings, prepare in their volunteer time and what (time) they spend studying, we just need to take that next step. They are passionate about (football). Here's what you've got, you have four guys, all four of them, they love to compete, they are passionate about football. They like to play football, love to play football. You would like to say that is inherent for everyone, it is not. Those four guys definitely are that way and they are talented. Now what we have to do is hone in on the professionalism as far as what it takes to become a productive player and how to become a good to great player."

Here is my unofficial tally of targets and catches this season broken down by class
                Seniors    Juniors   Soph.   FreshmenBYU          22 9-104  10 5-51  9 4-36  8 6-72
SBROOK  16 7-119    9 3-22  1 1-5    1 1--4
BOISE       16 9-154    4 3-27  8 3-7    8 7-54
USF             5 3-62      1 0-0    2 2-18  1  0-0
TEMPLE   12 8-80      3 1-5    8 3-12  5 2-77
TULANE  14 10-88     1 0-0    6 4-26  3 3-27
ECU           11 5-125    1 1-4  13 7-87  7 6-96
Here is the breakdown by position (not including the passes thrown away due to quarterback hurries since the box scores don't list official receivers and this week's interception which was tipped at the line of scrimmage)

Player                Targets  Catches Yards
Geremy Davis     58          34       436
Deshon Foxx       38         17       296
Dhameer Bradley 25         11        70
Sean McQuillan   16          8         69
Noel Thomas       14          8          97
Kamal Abrams    12          5          43
Thomas Lucas     12          7        115
Arkeel Newsome  9           8        117
Josh Marriner        6           5         35
Jazzmar Clax        4           3         12
Alec Bloom          3           3         40
Brian Lemelle       3           3        13
Ron Johnson         3           1        11
Max DeLorenzo    1           1        17
Tommy Myers      1           1          3
Matt Walsh           1           0          0
A couple of thoughts on the breakdown of targets. First, tight ends and fullbacks were targeted 19 times in the first three games and just six times since. Those numbers are a direct result of the pass protection issues as UConn has needed to keep in additional players to block just to throw the ball. Dhameer Bradley seemed almost like a forgotten piece of  passing offense earlier this season but his 18 targets over the last three games is second only to Davis during that span.

Staying on the subject of receivers, some future Huskies displayed the gift of grab as well over the weekend.

Tyraiq Beals had eight catches for 179 yards and a pair of touchdowns in East Orange's 29-21 win over Bloomfield. It was his fourth game with at least two touchdown catches this season and in six games he has 62 catches for 1060 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Also, John Robinson IV caught three passes for 78 yards and a touchdown in Dwight Morrow's 23-20 win over Dumont. It was his fourth TD reception in the last five games while Nazir Williams (4 catches for 78 yards) and Chris Lee (3 catches for 27 yards) also had multiple-catch games.

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