DENTON, Texas (4/3/09) Today MeanGreenSports.com continues a position-by-position breakdown of the North Texas football team in the spring and where it’s headed in the fall. Along the way we welcome your questions about each position and we answer them the following day. Yesterday it was the linebackers, today we look head back across the ball and talk wide receivers. E-mail Q&A are at the bottom. Click Here To Submit Questions
The question that everyone will ask is how does North Texas replace the 224 catches that Casey Fitzgerald had over the past two years. The answer is, by committee. There is no doubt that the extraordinary mark that Fitzgerald left on the North Texas record books may never be repeated, but Todd Dodge is even more excited about the potential of this group of wide receivers than he has been since he took over.
Unquestionably, Fitzgerald was the main target in the passing game the past two years. This year, the coaches believe, the attack will be much more balanced with legitimate weapons spread across the field. Spring practice has served as a familiarization period for the new faces among the wide receiving corps and a chance for the coaches to get a jump on developing depth for the fall.
The four receivers currently working with the first team are all learning a new system. Sam Roberson is the only returning player that is currently in the first team set, but he has been moved from outside to inside receiver. He had 12 catches for 76 yards with no touchdowns while trying to find his way last year as a freshman.
Transfers Jamaal Jackson, Michael Outlaw and Tyler Stradford all emerged very quickly as talented pickups and finished the spring season in the starting lineup. Jackson is an inside receiver that has quickness and elusiveness that has not been seen by Mean Green fans in some time. He has the ability to make defenders miss in open space, which he has done to his teammates several times in practice this spring.
Outlaw and Stradford have been working with the first unit as outside receivers and have made an immediate impression on the coaches. Outlaw has great hands and has shown an ability to get open deep while Stradford is a tall target with impressive jumping ability. The two outside targets will give North Texas the ability to stretch the field vertically more than it has any time in recent history. Along with Roberson, the only returning wide receivers that have any statistics are Alex Lott, Kevin Dickerson and Breece Johnson.
Lott was a part-time starter as a sophomore last year, finishing third on the team with 26 catches for 201 yards and two touchdowns. He spent all of spring practice on the sideline while rehabbing an injury. Lott is expected push the inside receivers for a starting spot when fall practice arrives. Dickerson is another inside receiver who should be in the two-deep after having 21 catches for 180 yards and one touchdown as a junior last year.
Johnson is an outside receiver who will be in the rotation, but is expected to backup Outlaw. He had seven catches for 60 yards as a sophomore in 2008. The coaches are also excited about the return of B.J. Lewis who played extensively as a freshman in 2007 but then suffered an injury and missed the final nine games of the 2008 season.
Lewis is expected to receive a medical redshirt and will have three years of service left, where he will be very impactful as an outside receiver. Jamel Jackson and Willie Taylor will also add depth at inside receiver while newcomer Bennie Jones has looked good at outside receiver during spring practice.
David from De Kalb, Texas
Q: How Is Riley Dodge looking at the quarterback position. Since we lost our starting QB from the last couple of years, is Riley expected to be the man or not?
A: Ahhh we’ve been waiting for this question. Everyone seems to want to know how he looks, how’s the arm, the leg, the head, etc. Here’s the best way I know to describe what I’ve seen from Riley Dodge. He’s a freshman still so keep that in mind. He reminds me of Jake Delhomme of the Carolina Panthers and Todd Reesing of Kansas. Stay with me here on this.
Delhomme was lampooned in the beginning because at 6-2, that’s small by NFL standards for a QB. However he has had quite a career and is a guy who doesn’t have the strongest arm in the world but is awfully accurate (expect against the Cardinals) with a 59.7 percent completion percentage for his career.
Reesing is who I really think North Texas fans need to look at to see how Riley could potentially be. Is Dodge ever going to do what Reesing has done at Kansas? Probably not, but no one thought Reesing could ever win in the Big 12 at 5-11 and look at what he’s done. Riley is very accurate and a guy with, let’s face it, something to prove. His arm strength is at 100 percent and pretty impressive.
Denise R. from Harvey, Louisiana
Q: What do think your new players will do for this team such as Darius Carey?
A: Funny you mention him because he’s been talked about this spring and that’s one guy who I think has a chance to come in and contribute right away. I know the coaches absolutely love his speed, ability, and potential. There are a lot of incoming freshman who are going to get a chance to compete for a starting job or spot on the two-deep come