Sep 14, 2013; Durham, NC, USA; Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets wide receiver Darren Waller (88) celebrates with wide receiver DeAndre Smelter (15) after Smelter scored a touchdown against the Duke Blue Devils at Wallace Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports
It is no secret that Georgia Tech doesn’t choose to pass the ball too often, but few understand that the wide receiver position is still one of much importance. The wide receiver is responsible for sealing the edge so A-backs can turn up the sideline for explosive plays. When the ball does come through the air, receivers must be ready to win their one-on-one matchups against the cornerback.
Over the years, Tech has produced an impressive list of NFL receivers, including Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas who were first round picks, and more recently DeAndre Smelter and Darren Waller, both taken the 2015 NFL draft in the fourth and sixth round respectively.
There will be big shoes to fill this season, as the duo of Smelter and Waller combined for 1142 yards last season. Like the A-back and B-back positions, Tech will have to rely on unproven players to catch the ball and block on the outside.
Starters: Michael Summers and Ricky Jeune
Summers has played in every game over the last two season for the Yellow Jackets, totalling 17 catches for 256 yards. The redshirt junior measures in at a svelte 6’1″ and 195 lbs. As such, he’s not as big or physical a guy like the ones who came before him, but brings more knowledge of the offense than anyone else at his position. He will look to use his speed, so look for Paul Johnson to call more wide receiver screens to utilize his quickness.
Jeune, like Qua Searcy at A-back, has drawn rave reviews for his work in the offseason. Though Jeune, a RS sophomore, has yet to see much in-game action, he brings intriguing potential to the club. At 6’3″ and 214 lbs, he possesses great size to win matchups down the field. He hails from Montvale, NJ and was a member of the 2013 recruiting class. Jeune is still raw, however, and his blocking will have to come up to speed, but he did see the field last season as a special teamer so hopefully he can leverage that experience into hitting the ground running in a starting role on offense.
Backups: Antonio Messick, Brad Stewart, Christian Philpott, and Harland Howell II
Messick played in 5 games as a redshirt freshman, though most of that was in situations where the outcome of the game was already decided. He caught an impressive touchdown pass in a blowout win over North Carolina State from backup QB Tim Byerly, as seen above. Like Jeune, he’ll look to use his 6’3″ frame to win jump balls over smaller cornerbacks.
After Messick is a trio of true freshman aiming for playing time.
Brad Stewart seems to have the upper hand with his polish for the position. Christian Philpott may also make some noise. As an ESPN four star recruit from Tallahassee, Fla., he’ll push the group with his size and speed. Howell was an early enrollee who stepped onto campus in January, so his experience working in spring practice may give him the edge over the other two.
Tech has multiple players returning from last season who saw action, unlike their other skill positions. Still, expect wide receivers coach Al “Buzz” Preston to lean heavily on the three with previous playing experience: Summers, Jeune and Messick. The other three newcomers from the class of 2015 have talent and may jump into the rotation at some point in the season, so keep an eye out for that going forward.
Next for Tuesday: Offensive tackle