SPRING PEEK: WIDE RECEIVERS

Michael Wright

Say what you want about the previous coaching staff, headed by former Army Head Coach Todd Berry. One thing is certain, and that is, he didn't leave the cupboard empty relative to talent. Although the receiver corp. loses co-captain Clint Woody, this will be an extremely deep and talented position that will represent one of the strength areas of the Black Knights.

As common as the word talent is to the main trio of wide receivers, Aaron Alexander ("AA"), William White and Jacob Murphy, their distinctions are just as diverse.  Alexander is a tall and rangy receiver whose presence mismatches with many cornerbacks and safeties.  As demonstrated last season, Alexander (6-foot-6) not only towers over opposing defensive backs, but also constantly out jumps them for receptions. 
Murphy has the combination of outstanding hands and speed (one of the fastest players on the team), with the knack for making catches with defensive backs draped all over him. 
Like Murphy, White brings blazing speed to the table.  In addition, White has sure hands, and is also a very physical receiver, who is built like a running back (5-foot-11, 200 pounds).  White, who doubles as a kickoff returner, can add YAC (Yards After Catch) to his list of attributes.  This makes him a threat every time he gets his hands on the ball.
Clearly the offensive scheme will determine how many receivers are on the field at the same time.  Therefore we should expect this position to be one of the most hotly contested in terms of players trying to earn starting roles, as well as quality playing time.
Let's look at the other talent at wide receiver:
Lamar Mason is a small-stature receiver with blazing speed and game-breaking ability.  Mason also doubles as a punt and kick returner.
Walter Hill is one a few freshmen to see reps last season (see question #2).

Speedster Bruce Brown returns, as does Blaine Cooper. Whenever given the opportunity on the field (mostly special teams), Brown always gave 110%.  A solid downfield blocker as a receiver, he will be looking forward to a breakthrough spring.  Like Brown, Cooper will be looking to make his mark this spring and solidify his role within the receiver's rotation.
If the Black Knight QB's can get the ball into their hands, Army's receivers have the talent to break big gains on any given play.

Wide Receiver questions for this spring:

1. Will William White have a breakout year?

White is our pick as the breakout WR of the spring.  After being hit with injuries throughout the past season, he is having a solid winter track season and he will be ready physically going into spring practice.  He has always been a physical specimen, with outstanding speed and great hands, and should be poised for a breakout spring and fall.

2. Is it Walter Hill's time to shine?

Overall, he had a solid freshman campaign.  Although he didn't get many touches last season, he showed that he is more than capable of adding depth at wide receiver and stepping in the starting role when called upon.   Unlike White, Murphy, and Mason… Hill lacks burner speed and will need to work on his routes, but one thing is certain, Mr. Hill can catch the ball.  With a year under his belt, we look for Hill to press the starters this spring.

3. Can the receivers shake the injury bug?

Throughout last season Army's receivers were banged up.  Part of the lack of overall production at this position can be attributed to this factor.  In addition, the constant change in receivers (as well as QB) due to injuries clearly had impact on the timing relative to having an effective and consistent passing game.  With solid winter conditioning, it is anticipated that coming into spring practice, all of the receivers will be at full strength.

4. Who will be the go-to guy?

Last year it was "AA", but as the year progressed, many defensive coordinators designed packages specifically to shut him down. Too often, the Black Knights were pressed to find that 2nd or 3rd go-to guy. Although this year the odds-on favorite to be "the" go-to guy in this offense is Alexander once again.  However, the coaching staff will be looking to several players to step up and be a go-to receiver and all of the aforementioned receivers will be given every chance to show they're the guy the Black Knights can and should go to on crucial downs.

5. Have the receivers developed?

For Black Knight's offense to be effective, receivers will have to run precise routes and know when to cut off a route, etc.  A year ago some of these talented receivers struggled to recognize defensives and adjust accordingly. For experience players Alexander, White, Murphy and Mason, such adjustments should now be second nature. 
Newcomers: Michael Wright, Des Moines (IA) Hoover HS is a 6-foot-3 190 pound wide out.  Although Wright doesn't possess blazing speed (4.65 seconds in the 40), he could turn into a bigger version of Walter Hill.  With the talent and depth on board, for Wright and other incoming frosh receivers, this will be a year of apprenticeship.
Conclusion:  This group of receivers can be as productive as any or most in all of Division I football.  Only time will tell if they can live up to the spring and pre-season expectations.
Walter Hill

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