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2008 Season Preview: Wide Receivers

Projected depth chart:

Flanker: Kenny Britt (JR 6'4, 215 lbs), Keith Stroud (FR 6'3, 200 lbs)
Split end: Tiquan Underwood (SR 6'2, 185 lbs), Julian Hayes (RS-SO 6'1, 215 lbs)
Slot: Timmy Brown (JR 5'8, 165 lbs), Dennis Campbell (RS-JR 5'9, 180 lbs)

Just how good was Kenny Britt in 2007? For all of Division I-A, Britt ranked eleventh in receiving yards, and finished fifth in the nation in yards per reception. As a true sophomore. Britt's receptions were not 8-10 yard curls. Britt is capable of working in traffic like Underwood, but he was far more often seen in 2007 racing down the field, making leaping grabs in the end zone. Expect more of the same (re: jump balls) this year

He is a playmaker, often tasked with going far down the field. At certain points last season, the lanky receiver would simply take over games and physically impose his will on the opposing team. Ray Rice was the only other Scarlet Knight that has been capable of doing that in recent memory. Britt's talent is seemingly limitless, he will be as good this year as he wants to be. He is by far the most talented player on the team's roster this season. He will likely receive all-conference honors, and will be in contention for All-American status and an early pick in next year's NFL Draft. 2008 for him will be about playing at a consistent level every game, improving his route running, learning precisely the amount of push-off permitted, leveraging his size to become an end zone weapon with fades, and similar intricacies of the position that can't come from pure talent alone.

2007 was the tale of two seasons for Tiquan Underwood. He was unstoppable in September, but then something strange seemed to develop. A hesitation. He was hearing footsteps, dropping footballs that should have been certain catches. A player that looked fearless of contact in September wore down as the season progressed. Given his role in the offense as a possession WR, and Teel's second read, Underwood needs to pack on some muscle this year in order to better endure the rigors of a full season.

Rutgers frequently uses multiple WR sets, meaning that Timmy Brown will see the field as much as Jack Corcoran and Craig McGovern. He can essentially be considered a starter. Brown has had an up and down career at Rutgers. How many times have we seen him juke, badly burn a defensive back, streak down the sideline, only to watch a perfect Teel spiral fall through his fingertips? Brown's obscene level of speed may have forced him on to the field sooner than what may have been best for his development. He's entering his third year in the program, and there won't be any more excuses this year.

Brown missed some time in spring practices due to academic issues, and that may have opened yet another opportunity for Dennis Campbell. To say his career at Rutgers has been mixed at best would be an understatement. With 'Windmill' Willie Foster and Shawn Tucker sidelined in 2006, Campbell saw major playing time early before succumbing to injury. Last year, reports from camp raved daily about his sizzling play, but he soon fell behind on the depth chart. He reportedly is having another good camp, but it's hard not to be skeptical at this point. He still is only a junior and is one of the fastest players on the team. However, he may just have the worst hands on the team. If the team wasn't lacking experienced backups behind its starters this year, he would likely be switched to cornerback.

Julian Hayes is the one other player who's seen in-game reps. He will see time in multiple-WR sets this year, and may see additional reps as he's groomed for a larger role in 2009. The team also has brought in a number of talented freshmen. Brooklyn product Keith Stroud prepped last season, and enrolled early enough in 2008 to participate in spring practice. From his film, Stroud looks to bring a very aggressive, physical game, and may force himself on to the field at some time in 2008. Greg Schiano and co. seem to be targeting larger receivers, as two other incoming freshman are Tim Wright (one of the best recruits in the class), and Marcus Cooper. Another incoming freshman, Eddie Poole, is more of a slot receiver. Barring injury, all except Stroud are likely to be redshirted.

This group does not return a lot of veteran experience behind the starters. The receiving corps is not getting preseason accolades for having a plethora of veteran experience behind the starters. Gone are S/Ter James Townsend, and the injury-prone combo of Marcus Daniels and Keith Taylor. Five players return from last season; other teams in the conference are deeper. The receiving corps is a strength of the team mainly because of the top three players, but especially because of Kenny Britt. He is a special, special (now I'm sounding like Greg Schiano) talent, one that we had better cherish now, because he is going to be playing football for a paycheck at this time next season.