Anythony McClung emerged as the Bearcats top receiver in 2011 (Photo by Tyler Barrick/Getty Images)
Alternate Title: I miss Armon Binns.
From the moment that Brian Kelly took the job it was clear that the receivers were going to move front and center. 2007 was a sign of things to come as Marcus Barnett and Dominick Goodman both went over 800 yards with 21 TD receptions between the two of them. Their single season yardage totals rank as the 12th and 13th best seasons in program history*. It turned out that was just the tip of the iceberg.
*Goodie had 869 yards, Bones 862 with a still record 13 TD's
Starting in 2008 the Bearcats produced 4 1,000 yard receiving seasons with three different receivers in the course of one season. Mardy Gilyard, Goodman and Armon Binns hit unsuspecting defenses one after the other. It basically reigned down 1,000 yard receivers. That was the legacy that the 2011 group of Wide Receivers inherited. That was the standard. It turns out that it was probably a bit too high
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A big reason for the declining production of the Wide Receivers on the whole goes back to the increased focus on the running game. Isaiah Pead was the bell cow of this offense and Mike Bajakian made the decision very early to hitch himself to the Isaiah Pead bandwagon, and no one can really argue that it wasn't the right decision.
That was a big part of the decline in production for the receivers. Another part was the declining play of the quarterbacks in 2011. Zach Collaros and Munchie Leguax didn't set the world on fire for two different reason, and bad fit for Zach's skill set and a general lack of experience and corresponding dip in confidence for Munchie. It's OK to say that the QB's failed to live up to expectations, but the same thing can be said of the Wide Receivers. And the receivers didn't exactly do Munchie and Zach any favors. And I can prove it.**
**This is my spreadsheet of targeting for the 2011 season. If you want to know anything about the Bearcats receivers this year it can be found there.
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The obvious thing here is that the Bearcats starting triumvirate of Anythony McClung, Kenbrell Thompkins and D.J. Woods were targeted 247 times and caught just 52 per cent of those targets. Catch Percentage is, admittedly, a flawed metric because it doesn't take into account the catchability of the passes. Just the general direction in which they were heading. In truth the accuracy of the Bearcats passers this year was average, occasionally veering both above and below the median but hovering in the average area.
Each of the three main receivers had their peaks and valley's this season. McClung was at his best in the Miami, and N.C. State games (back to back) and had a majestic performance eviscerating UConn for 8 catches (on 15! targets) 142 yards and two TD's**. But he also had 4 games where he had fewer than 2 catches and he was shut out against Syracuse.
** This was the best game from a Bearcat receiver all year. There were only 4 100 yard games all season. Armon Binns alone had 7 in 2010
D.J. Woods peaked with 9 catches (9 targets) for 111 yards against Tennessee. His valley was the rest of the season. In the final 11 games woods topped 2 receptions just once, with 6 against South Florida and was shut out of the Miami and Vanderbilt games. For all intents and purposes Alex Chisum took his spot in the rotation after the South Florida game.
Kenbrell Thompkins had a six game stretch between the N.C. State and West Virginia games where he caught at least 5 balls during each game. But he ended the year with 4 receptions in the final four games (for 42 yards) and was shut out of the UConn and Vandy games. He had his career day against South Florida with 6 catches (on 8 targets) with 114 yards.
All of this reeks of inconsistency, which in retrospect shouldn't have been unexpected. McClung was a rotation guy in 2010, but he was at best 4th in the pecking order and wasn't an every down player. Thompkins sat out a year and was playing his first competitive Football in 2 years, and that was at the JUCO level. Neither could have been completely prepared for taking over as the top two receivers on a team. As for Woods I have no idea what went on there, and no desire to speculate wildly.
The good news is that the Bearcats bring everyone back in 2012. The biggest loss from the receivers is Woods and like I said above he was a starter in name only at the end of the season. Alex Chisum has the potential to be the Bearcats next great wide receiver. He has already mastered the underthrown jump ball and has tremendous body control.
Go Ahead, Point and Laugh
And I quote
The potential is off the chart. This is probably the deepest most talented WR. core in the current spread era. But the lack of proven production creates some cause for concern. Regardless, there is enough he to fashion one of the most productive receiving cores in the conference.
That was taken from my pre camp WR preview from July. I got a little hyperbolic while at the same time pointing out what proved to be the biggest issue from the season for the WR's, the lack of proven production. It reared its ugly head time and again. In the end the post season rating has to be a 6 this group didn't reach its full collective potential.
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