Post-Spring 2008 Preview: Wide Receivers

Marlon Moore

The wide receiver group is the deepest the position has ever seen in Fresno State history. The unit has the essentials, speed, size, and strength. The route running and, most importantly, great starting material depth set it apart from other great receiving corps in the past. The Bulldogs can go 3-unique deep at the X, Y, and Z positions.

From the edges to the slots, there is a receiver for all occasions, and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier will have a tremendous selection of talents to choose from to move his offense. The sets are unlimited, the routes varying, and the lineup can force defenses on their heels if they dare to cheat against Fresno State's run. The offense has the flexibility to go from a three, four, or five-wide receiver set. The receivers have the ability to line up anywhere on the field, even at tailback, and be effective.


The deep threat: Jr. Marlon Moore (6-1, 190)

Marlon Moore
photo by Ken Weisenberger for BarkBoard.com
2007 season stats: 48 rec, 694 yds, 5 tds
Post-spring game: B

Moore returns as the Bulldogs' leading receiver. Last year, he came on strong in the last three games of the season, dominating Kansas State with nine catches for 134 yards and two touchdowns. What gives Moore a great advantage is his 4.3 speed. He is the Bulldogs' fastest receiver, and he can get to full speed within the second step after he catches the ball.

He has also worked well on his separation, and he is remarkably improved in his timing with his QB from 2006. He is also much improved in the blocking department, setting up great blocks to seal his outside man and letting runs by. Moore still needs to work on his hands, not so much the receiving aspect of it, but the ball security aspect of his game.

He had multiple drops, a handful that would have put points on the board, even made a difference in the outcome of a game, as in the Texas A&M where he fumbled at the goal line. Otherwise, he will look to have a breakout year with his blazing speed. When he is focused, it is impossible for anyone, save the fastest corners in the nation, to cover if he runs streaks.


The x-factor: Jr. Chastin West (6-1, 220)
2007 season: injured
Post-spring grade:B- (did not participate in contact drills)

West got hurt in the preseason last year, after leading the Bulldogs in receiving in 2006 (33 catches, 365 yards). He returns to the team having bulked up considerably in the off-season, training his knee to get better and getting stronger overall. He will look to rediscover his capabilities from 2006, displaying his hands and concentration on the field.

Before he was hurt, West was arguably the Bulldogs' best looking new wide receiver, running crisp routes, and was one of the few dependable receivers, in a disappointing 2006 season, in coming back to the ball with his hands. He will bring physical play to his position, not only in fighting for position on the receiving end, but also in run blocking. His size will allow him to contribute to sealing the inside for a run when he drifts into the slot position.

In spring, he showed he still has soft hands, and says that his knee is nearly 100%. If he can come into fall and build on his 2006 season, FS will have another go-to receiver opposite Moore.


The middleman: Jr. Seyi Ajirotutu (6-3, 210)

Seyi Ajirotutu
Photo by gobulldogs.com
2007 season stats:28 rec, 453 yds
Post-spring grade:B

Ajirotutu comes into the season as the Bulldogs' most physical receiver. He is the tallest on roster, and is quite possibly the most dependable blocker from the wide receiver position. Ajirotutu displayed great field awareness on his routes, and has good hands when the ball comes his way, making a handful of clutch catches last year. When he lines up at split end, he becomes a complimentary blocker to an adjacent TE or H-back, with the physical streak to match against outside linebackers and safeties.

The fastest WR on the team, he is not. However, his field awareness can get him anchored into holes against zone coverage. He has the height to go up against taller safeties, and the size to shield in front of smaller cornerbacks.

Look for him to be a great depth addition to Moore and West on the outside, and a receiver that can compliment tight ends Bear Pascoe and Isaac Kinter in the middle of the field.


The athlete: Jr. Jason Crawley (6-2, 190)

Jason Crawley
photo by BarkBoard.com
2007 season stats: 22 rec, 199 yds, 1 td
Post-spring grade: B-

Crawley is the most athletic of the wide receiver group. His 40-inch vertical should allow him to really sky for jump balls at the back of the end zone or against shorter corners. One of his strengths from last year is his ability to move in the open field. He brings energy and a swagger to the group, and his athletic ability makes for a perfect target in open holes against zone coverage.

Crawley can line up anywhere at the multiple receiver positions, but he is best utilized on the outside.


The future: So. Jamel Hamler (6-1, 190)
2007 season stats: 5 rec, 80 yds
Post-spring grade: A-

Hamler displayed flashes of brilliance last year in route running and hands. He showed he could anchor himself into the middle of the field and take advantage of the attention focused on Pascoe and get behind that coverage.

In spring, he was one of the most consistent holding onto the ball. Hamler will only get better in his sophomore year as he gets stronger and develops his reads. As he learns to block better and improves on his speed, he can become a stalwart at the receiver position.


The slot: So. Devon Wylie (5-9, 185)

Wonder Bread, as he is known around the team, is a scrappy receiver with 4.4 speed. During last season, however, he had problems with his endurance, and has worked in the off-season to develop his lower body strength.

He should play a much bigger role this year at the slot position. He can easily get lost in the shuffle in the middle, which will allow him to use his speed to take advantage of blocks from the middle to spring himself loose, a la former Bulldog great Rodney Wright.

He showed a flash of his capabilities and field awareness with his lone reception (44yds) of the year against Texas A&M. Wylie will improve in that regard with a year under his belt. Look for Wylie to rotate heavily into the Y position and provide occasion fly sweeps.


The rest: So. Darren Newborne (6-0, 185), So. Tim Lang (6-0, 190), Fr. Matt Lindsey (6-2, 180), RFr. Jevon Stallworth (5-11, 185)

Newborne repeatedly displays quite possibly the best route running of the entire receiving corps. His field attentiveness, his body position, and his awareness to play the ball while it is in the air, separates him from the group. It gave him playing time, despite being a walk-on; he caught three balls last season for 23 yards.

While he is not the fastest, strongest, or most physically gifted of the group, he is arguably the most dependable route runner and pass catcher.

Lang is still a question mark on the team, as he deals with his academics. But suffice it to say, if he is successful in the classroom, he will bring speed and athleticism to the team at the receiver position. He recorded five receptions for 82 yards last season.

He played very raw as a true freshman, but displays great hands and big play capability with the times he has touched the ball. Also, as a former quarterback, Lang can pull back and launch the ball in double-backs and flickers if Coach Nussmeier so chooses to call them.

Lang can also run options out of the backfield in the slot position. His versatility on offense gives FS the opportunity to have three possible quarterbacks lined up in the backfield (along with Ebahn Feathers and Tom Brandstater) that can run it, throw it, receive it, take a direct snap, or just royally confuse any defensive formations opposite those guys.

Lindsey comes in running the best routes of any freshmen Coach Pat Hill has had. His field vision is already reminiscent of a veteran receiver, and he still has room to grow and develop after sitting out last fall as a grayshirt. He is light on his feet, and it allows him to change directions immediately after the catch, which gives him a great advantage when the ‘Dogs execute sweeps or basketball-on-grass plays. He is also an excellent intermediate route runner, settling himself into the holes that Pascoe can create through the middle. In the spring drills, he is also one of the best catching the ball with their "fingers."

Stallworth is still very raw, but very fast. He had a couple drops in the spring game. He should be better acquainted with his knowledge of the offense in fall. However, his speed and athleticism make him another one of the many promising freshmen that will be the future of the Bulldog receiving corps.


Impact newcomer: Rashad Evans (5-10, 180)

Rashad Evans
Logan HS Photo
Prep highlights: one of the top athletes in the nation, rated three-stars and the No. 5 CB in California by Scout.com…was selected the No. 3 rated player in the Bay Area by the Contra Costa Times…named East Bay Player of the Year by the San Francisco Chronicle…as a QB he rushed for 1,420 yards and 18 touchdowns as a senior, leading his league in rushing ...had 25 tackles as cornerback...had offers to Cal, Oregon, Georgia Tech, and Tennessee

Evans is producing one of the top buzz lines of the incoming class. He is a dynamic player, with shiftiness, speed, and superglue hands to boot. His potential at the slot position is limitless, as he has the quickness to execute the many designed plays FS wants to have coming from the interior of the field.

As with AJ Ellis, Evans was endeared to the Bulldogs because of the opportunity to play on offense. Most teams wanted him as a defensive back, and Evans had a number of huge offers to choose from BCS schools. In leading Union City (Calif.) James Logan High he averaged a mind-boggling 11.7 yards per rush.


2008 recruit: Anthony Johnson (6-0, 170)

Johnson was Mr. Everything for Bakersfield (Calif.) Highland literally. He was the team's leading scorer (88pts), leading rusher (113 rushes, 907 yards, 10TDs), leading receiver (25 catches, 318 yards, 3TDs), leading punt returner (6 returns, 111 yards), kick returner (9 kicks, 235 yards), and backup QB (17-43, 136 yards). Defensively, he recorded 28 tackles from his DB position while grabbing an interception.

He is very raw. Moreover, he has not spent much time in the weight room. His forty-time does not scream major recruit, but his game speed is what attracted Fresno State. Calling him a sleeper would be an understatement. He will remind many Bulldog fans of A.J. Jefferson, another Bakersfield native who came to Fresno State as an underrated talent who was the major component of his high school team's performance. Jefferson became an All-American in his second year at FS.


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