I'm still fascinated by what T.J. Knowles might be able to bring to the table for the football team. Knowles is the 6'8" wide receiver who verbally committed to USF a couple of weeks ago, after a year at Saddleback College in California. Having a player that tall seems like a unique and potentially game-tilting weapon, especially one who, as his highlight reel shows, has decent hands, good speed for his size, and isn't afraid to go over the middle and expose his huge frame to contact.
Then we thought of a few other teams that the Bulls have seen in the last couple of years who have (or had) equally tall wide receivers. So I reached out to WVUIE97 at The Smoking Musket to get his thoughts on Wes Lyons, and to Mike Rutherford at Card Chronicle to ask him about Josh Chichester. Both of those guys are 6'8". The receivers, not the bloggers.
I also tried to reach out to a Memphis blog to talk about 6'9" Carlos Singleton, the most successful of the super-tall receivers we've seen, and possibly the inspiration for Skip Holtz deciding to go out and find one of his own. But unfortunately I never heard back from them. Who knows, maybe they took one look at my Dating Game parody and decided to hell with those guys.
Questions and answers after the jump:
VOODOO 5: Other than him being taller than anyone trying to cover him, what benefits are there having a receiver that tall?
WVUIE97 (Smoking Musket): Theoretically, he could cause opposing defensive coaches to panic and maybe coax them into playing taller players in coverage just for the sake of height, sacrificing coverage skills, especially near the end zone. I think it may give the QB somewhat of a security blanket in that he can sometimes throw bad balls (almost uncatchable) his way if under pressure and still have a shot at a completion. One thing that was also talked about by our coaches was using Lyons on FG/PAT block situations, but we never saw that in a game, to my knowledge.
MIKE (Card Chronicle): They definitely demand a great deal of attention when you cross the opponents' 30-yard line or so, and that frees up a lot of space for some other guys to make plays. Chichester was used as a decoy more than anything during his freshman season when he was still extremely under-developed.
Also, they can play on the basketball team, which Chichester did during parts of his first two years at U of L. He actually knocked down a nice turn-around jumper against Kentucky when he was a freshman.
VOODOO 5: What are your receiver's height-related weaknesses, if any?
WVUIE97: The taller players can be faster, due to their long strides, but a lot of times quickness (especially in and out of cuts) and crisp route running can be difficult. Injuries seemed to plague Lyons too....whether or not that's height-related, I'll leave to the medical staff's opinion.
MIKE: Chichester has struggled mightily with blocking, and I think a portion of that has to be attributed to his size. He's always going to matched up against someone smaller and quicker than he is, which is an issue if a back is trying to bust one down the sideline.
VOODOO 5: How is your receiver used in your offense? Do you think he's used well? Do fans ever invoke his name as a blanket solution to problems on offense (something like, "Hell, we got a 6'8" guy, just throw it to him!"
MIKE: Fans were constantly clamoring for Steve Kragthorpe to have whichever quarterback was in at that time throw it up to Chichester when U of L was in the redzone, a technique he finally accepted and had some success with in the second half of last season. Louisville's coaching staff is almost entirely fresh, so it's difficult to say how Josh is going to be used from here on out, especially considering that Charlie Strong will be bringing the Florida spread look with him to the Derby City.
WVUIE97: This is the tough one. We tried Lyons on the outside and he never quite caught on to the offense and/or was consistently injured. Due to that, he never lived up to fan expectations. He was moved to slot for his last season and seemed poised for a breakout season, but again just never quite lived up to it. He created nightmare matchups for LBs, but it never fully panned out during the season. Personally, I think a big part of that was that our QB seemed to be constantly running for his life and couldn't do the standard progression of reads.
Fans of WVU will mostly label Lyons a bust. There was a lot of chatter on the message boards and our blog about "Why don't they just throw it up to him?" which, I believe, is unfair to both the players and coaches. Unless the guy is an out-of-sight talent like Dez Bryant, Michael Crabtree, etc, (and Lyons was nowhere near that class of talent), you can't just ditch your offensive scheme to utilize one player... unless it's extremely limited situationally, and even then it can't be used week in and week out, otherwise the opposition prepares for it.
The long and short of it (no pun intended) is the guy still has to be able to put the workout and practice effort in, run his routes, stay healthy and catch the ball, whether he's 5'1" or 6'8" or anything in between. This is all just my opinion and observations. Others may disagree.
Thanks to Mike and WVUIE for taking time out and answering my questions. With the Bulls looking to set up a slightly more pro-style offense than what Louisville and West Virginia use, it will be interesting to see if Knowles can flourish in it.
Plus, Knowles may not be the only giant receiver USF puts out on the field. The Bulls are currently in the mix for Carlos Carvajal, a 6'7" receiver from American High School in Hialeah, for their 2011 class. Can you imagine if Knowles works out, and then they can add Carvajal? I think I would start sending pallets of Tums to the defensive coordinators of our opponents.