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March 11, 2013

Preview: Searching for depth

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As the final minutes of the Meineke Car Care Bowl wound down, you had to wonder was the end of that game meant for a program that prides itself on developing receivers.

Darrin Moore and Eric Ward became the first school's first duo since 2008 to eclipse the 1,000-yard receiving mark. Moore had exhausted his eligibility and Ward was considering declaring for the NFL Draft after his standout junior campaign. Alex Torres and Austin Zouzalik were also about to fall off the grid as were Tyson Williams and Marcus Kennard, all seniors.

The good news is that the Red Raiders return five players that started at least one game last season. Unfortunately, only two of them -- Jakeem Grant and Eric Ward -- played in more than seven games. While Ward will be the receiving corps' obvious headliners, the success of this unit in 2013 may hinge on how quickly the team's next generation of wideouts take the next step.
The Basics
Returning Starters: Jace Amaro (6), Javon Bell (1), Jakeem Grant (3), Bradley Marquez (1), Eric Ward (12)

Others Returning: Shawn Corker, Jordan Davis, Reginald Davis, Derreck Edwards, Aaron Fisher, Dominique Wheeler.

Newcomers: Peyton Williams

Departures: Darrin Moore (Graduation), Marcus Kennard (Graduation), Javares McRoy (Left program), Alex Torres (Graduation), Tyson Williams (Graduation), Austin Zouzalik (Graduation).
Notable 2012 Statistics
Ward was a first down machine for the Red Raiders; more than 47 of his 82 receptions went for 10 or more yards.

Amaro was the team's third-leading receiver despite missing six games due to injury.

If Ward is able to duplicate or slightly improve on his 2012 stats, he'll end his career in the top three in school history in career receptions, yards and touchdowns.
On the other hand, freshman Derreck Edwards scored the Red Raiders' first offensive touchdown in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. Jakeem Grant did some damage for the Red Raiders during the 2012 season. Bradley Marquez might be a go-to guy if he can fully recover from a major knee injury and, of course, there's heralded tight end Jace Amaro.

Fortunately, Ward opted to return to the Red Raiders for his senior season amid coaching uncertainties to give the Red Raiders two or three known quantities on the outside -- Edwards has only played in six games -- and two known quantities on the inside.

With Ward back, it's easy to feel comfortable about Tech's front-line receivers. Ward and Amaro will be in the conversation for preseason All-Big 12 honors, Marquez has proven to be a reliable playmaker in his two seasons on campus and Grant showed flashes as a freshman.

The biggest storyline for the team's receiving corps this spring will be who emerges to fill out the rest of the Red Raiders' rotation. Edwards has the ability to be a star, but off-the-field issues derailed his redshirt freshman campaign. Reginald Davis and Dominique Wheeler were both highly-ranked coming out of high school but will be going through their first spring.

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NEW FACES: Peyton Williams. The Southlake Carroll product transferred from Colorado at semester and will be eligible to play in 2013 as he was grayshirting in Boulder and had yet to go on scholarship. Williams will likely start out at inside receiver and should have a chance to work his way into the rotation.

PRESSURE IS ON: Edwards had a productive spring last year, but unfortunately that didn't translate into the fall. The Brenham product played in just six games and caught only six passes. Part of his lack of production can be attributed to off-the-field issues; he barely saw the field in Big 12 play despite the team being down two outside receivers. While Edwards is just a sophomore, the Red Raiders are thin on the outside and he is in a prime position to earn a spot in the rotation.

BIGGEST QUESTION: Who will step up? Ward, Marquez, Amaro, Grant and, to a lesser extent, Bell are known commodities. So are Jordan Davis and Fisher. Sure, they will be adjusting to a new scheme, but you pretty much know what you are getting with those guys. Reginald Davis, Edwards and Wheeler? Not so much. Edwards has had successful springs before but, as noted above, has yet to carry that forward into the fall. Davis and Wheeler, both highly-ranked recruits out of high school, will be going through their first spring.



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