Coastal Carolina football fans know what to expect at this point from junior wide receiver Bruce Mapp and seniors John Israel and Tyrell Blanks, and having all three top targets back in the passing game arguably gives the Chanticleers one of the top receiving corps in the FCS.
But further encouraging for offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude and senior quarterback Alex Ross is the depth of options behind those three.
“We could put probably nine or 10 guys out there that are representative players at this level and feel good about it,” Patenaude said this week. “It’s that we’re striving for perfection at that position and we’ve had really good players at that position. We’ve been blessed with those kids since we’ve been here. So we’re trying to get those guys who can play more consistently and make more plays in one-on-one situations.”
Junior Devin Brown, the Chants’ speedy kick returner, has some experience in the offense, having caught 16 passes last season. Gary Bradshaw, a 5-foot-7 sophomore, was one of the stars of the spring. Meanwhile, Chris Jones, a 5-foot-11 sophomore, was one of the players Ross suggested to keep an eye on entering fall camp.
Then there’s Virginia Tech transfer Mark Irick, a 6-foot-2 junior who sat out last season to recover from injury, and Memphis transfer Kyle Wilson (a 6-foot-2 sophomore), who come from quality FBS programs.
And among the younger players on the roster, redshirt-freshman Frankie Richardson, sophomore Taylor Bagley, sophomore Jesse June, sophomore Trey Gattison and redshirt-freshman Omar Black are also all on the radar to varying degrees, looking to emerge from the pack for whatever playing time may be available.
So it is a battle. There might be six or seven guys in here battling for two spots right now.
CCU offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude
“We have taped every practice since the beginning of camp, all through spring. We run two full groups pretty much all the time through the spring and summer, so there’s a lot of tape of guys out there,” Patenaude said. “But it’s going to be guys that we have a gut feeling about if we put this guy in the game he gives us the best chance to win. That has not more clearly defined itself. In a lot of ways, it’s gotten more foggy as some of the guys you didn’t think we’re going to be as far along are getting much better and guys you were hoping were going to take that next step maybe got injured or don’t understand the system well enough.
“So it is a battle. There might be six or seven guys in here battling for two spots right now.”
Again, the bar has been set high at that spot.
We featured Mapp in a Friday story that can be found here: Mapp right on track
He broke the program’s single-season record with 71 receptions last season while totaling 959 yards (third best in program history) and six touchdowns.
Israel had 46 catches for 798 and six scores as well while Blanks totaled 52 receptions for 646 yards and four touchdowns.
With Israel and Blanks in their final year of eligibility, the encouraging part for the program is there should be no shortage of options ready to step in next year and fill those spots. But in the meantime, there might also be opportunity this fall for some of those guys.
Said Patenaude: “We just had a huge conversation about that with [receivers coach] Renato Diaz and the whole offensive staff and then we had a sit-down with the wide receivers also to say, ‘Look, there’s a lot of talent in this room. The guys that are going to be able to play are going to be guys that we trust, that are going to know what’s going on, that are going to know how to block the edge, that are going to know what routes to run and all the nuances of running the routes based on the coverage that really go unnoticed.’
“The veteran guys who have been in the system longer understand it’s not just this route – it’s this route versus this technique of the defender, which is going to allow me to be the best I can be. But there’s a lot of guys in that room that are really good players and it’s really a consistency issue. We need to be more consistent route runners, ball catchers and have a more consistent understanding of what’s going on.”