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Rutgers Football 2017 Preview: Wide Receivers

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We start our positional unit previews on offense.

Maryland v Rutgers Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

With practices for the fall season beginning next week, it is a good time to look over the wide receiver corps for the Scarlet Knights for 2017. This comes at a good time, as it was just reported that Janarion Grant has been listed as 100% ready for the upcoming campaign. All of the players listed as wide receivers will be reviewed in turn by jersey number, beginning with the appropriately numbered #1.

#1 Janarion Grant (5’10”, 172 lbs.)

The success of the Scarlet Knights in 2017 rest to a large extent on the shoulders of the Trilby, Florida native, who has been an electrifying player in his time at Rutgers. He has a host of honors to go with his statistics, which are impressive to say the least. Here is some examples, and they do not include everything: Rutgers all-time kickoff return yardage leader, tied NCAA record for combined kick return touchdowns, three-time Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week, Rutgers 2015 Special Teams MVP, Rutgers 2013 Special Teams Co-MVP, and 2014 and 2015 All-Conference Player (AAC and B1G). In addition to the above, he is one of the most exciting players to watch, as his on-field moves regularly brings the crowd to its feet.

That is why his season-ending injury last year was so devastating to the Scarlet Knight faithful. With Grant in the game, every play was considered a possible scoring opportunity, a feeling that disappeared with his ankle injury against Iowa.

Just in case you’ve forgotten how much fun he is to watch, here are some highlights from just the four games in which he played in 2016:

#2 Ahmir Mitchell (6’3”, 206 lbs.)

One of Chris Ash’s biggest wins last year was the addition of Ahmir Mitchell to the roster after a team suspension at Michigan ended positively for Mitchell, as well as Rutgers. His background with the family (more on that later) was an important factor in Mitchell’s decision, to be sure. The consensus 4-star recruit was a big win for the program. After sitting out the required year, Mitchell’s place in the roster was secure. However, an ACL injury this spring has put a question mark on his ability to play this season. We will know more as practices begin.

#3 Jawuan Harris (5’9”, 186 lbs.)

The Florida-born junior had eight starts in the 2016 season, and led the conference with receptions and yards by a freshman, hauling in 39 catches for 481 yards for the season. He was also named to the All-Freshman Team by BTN and ESPN.com. He had his first 100+ yard game against Indiana last season, gathering 118 total yards on eight receptions. Harris redshirted his freshman year. Additionally, Harris demonstrates his athleticism as a two-sport athlete, starting in 49 games this past spring, finishing second in the league with 23 stolen bases, scored 39 runs and had a .468 slugging percentage.

#5 Damon Mitchell (6’2”, 217 lbs.)

Duwop, as he is called, is a graduate transfer from Arkansas, where he played under a coaching staff that included then-Defensive Coordinator Chris Ash. Mitchell was a two-way player in HS, but at Arkansas played receiver and running back. With the combination of his younger brother’s transfer to Rutgers, and the hiring of Chris Ash, Damon made the decision to transfer to his home-state school as well. The Ash-Mitchell connection also helped his younger brother Ahmir feel comfortable committing to play for the new Scarlet Knight coach, as he was a known quantity to the family. The Egg Harbor City native appeared in over 20 games in his three seasons at Arkansas. The clip below shows his toughness on special teams, delivering a breathtaking pancake hit against Florida kick returner Chris Thompson.

#6 Mohamed Jabbie (5’11”, 186 lbs.)

Jabbie is entering his first year of eligibility as a redshirt freshman in 2017. The South Brunswick native is most known to Rutgers faithful as the nephew of former Rutgers great and current Atlanta Falcon Mohamed Sanu.

#16 Nixon Provillon (6’2”, 200 lbs.)

The Irvington native joined the team last season during spring football, and did not see action in 2016. Previously, Provillon played football and ran track for Cheney University in 2013 and 2014.

#21 Jelani Garvin (5’8”, 173 lbs.)

Garvin redshirted last season after coming to Rutgers from Northern Highlands HS in Allendale, NJ.

#22 Prince Taylor (5’10”, 194 lbs.)

The Hackensack native was a redshirt for his first year with the team in 2016.

#23 Dacoven Bailey (5’10”, 205 lbs.)

Bailey played in 11 games last season, with one start (Penn State). The Pilot Point, Texas native saw time on both offense and special teams, leading that group with six tackles last season, three of which were in the Washington game. Dacoven had four rushes as well as three receptions last season. Below is a little competition this past spring between Bailey and Wide Receivers Coach Jafar Williams working with a passing machine.

#27 McDerby Ceneus (5’8”, 188 lbs.)

McDerby redshirted last season, and therefore saw no action. Ceneus previously played at William Patterson University in 2014, playing in one game.

#80 Alex Schoen (5’7”, 172 lbs.)

Schoen is a two-sport athlete, who missed the 2017 lacrosse season due to injury. He also previously played in both sports at Syracuse.

#83 Rashad Blunt (6’1”, 197 lbs.)

The St. John’s, FL junior has yet to see action on the field, having redshirted his freshman season, and did not play in a game last year.

#84 Cole Murphy (6’1”, 205 lbs.)

Murphy is a junior college transfer, having previously played at Coffeyville Community College.

Incoming Freshmen

Raheem Blacksheer (5’9”, 170 lbs.)

Blacksheer is the only of this year’s crop of receivers from Pennsylvania, and hails from Archbishop Wood, who won the PIAA Class 5A Championship last fall. They accomplished that feat mainly on the back of Blacksheer, who ran for 236 yards on 35 carries in the title game, three of which were touchdowns. Blacksheer had a tumultuous recruitment, originally pledging to Temple, switching to Michigan State when Temple’s Matt Rhule left for Baylor, and then flipping to Rutgers on signing day.

Hunter Hayek (5’10”, 160 lbs.)

Hunter is one of a trio of Wayne Hills commits this year, one of whom is his twin brother, Tyler, a 2017 safety commit. Wayne Hills won NJISAA North 1, Group IV title this year, keyed by Hayek’s lateral pass to Brendan DeVera (the third Rutgers commit from Wayne Hills) for the score and the win.

Shameen Jones (6’2”, 171 lbs.)

This Cardinal Hayes (Bronx, NY) is the #2 recruit in NYS, so again, a great pickup by Rutgers. At only 171 pounds, he would do well to put some muscle on before going up against the heart of the Big Ten East.

Eddie Lewis (6’0”, 179 lbs.)

Eddie Lewis is another top state recruit (#18) that held offers from many programs, including Duke, Boston College, Temple, Iowa, Syracuse and North Carolina, but the real battle was between Indiana and Rutgers.

Bo Melton (5’11”, 175 lbs.)

Bo Melton was the #2 recruit in NJ, and looks to be as good as hoped. With both of his parents being letter-winning athletes at Rutgers, it was hoped that the familial connection would help sway him to Rutgers, as it ultimately seemed to do so. Bo’s commitment was an important early piece in the recruitment of the 2017 class and brings speed to the position.

Everett Wormley (6’0’, 195 lbs.)

Mike Voza did a nice “get to know” piece on Wormley soon after signing day, and the Burlington City recruit was an early sign-on, pledging to Rutgers in April 2016, the same week as Bo Melton.

Predictions:

Obviously, the #1 receiver is Janarion Grant, but how the rest of the wide receiving corps shakes out will be determined to a great extent in camp over the next month. The number 2, 3, and 4 receivers could be Jawaun Harris, Damon Mitchell, and (if healthy) Ahmir Mitchell. However, Mo Jabbie and Dacoven Bailey both have big upsides, and the potential is there for either or both of them to make waves in the roster this season. Of the freshman, Melton can compete from day one. We have a fairly deep receiving group this season, which is a nice change from last season, where following the loss of Grant in the Iowa game, Harris and a rotating cast of characters struggled to pickup yardage.

The opportunity to have as many as 4-6 impactful receivers in 2017 may change the way defenses set up against the Scarlet Knights this fall, and their ability to make plays will also open up the run, something that did not happen last year after the Iowa game. A strong passing QB is essential for this season. Whether that is Kyle Bolin, Gio Rescigno, or Jonathan Lewis remains to be seen.

Finally, with a very strong group of incoming receivers, it would be best for the program and the players’ development to be able to redshirt as much of the group as possible. I would imagine that early playing time was a mantra used in recruitment, but the year of growth would only serve them better in the long run, something that is sometimes difficult to grasp at 18 years of age. Either way, the position is well stocked and an exciting group for Rutgers fans to cheer on!