All but one of TCU’s wide receivers from the 2016 team return, a group that was equally brilliant and frustrating over an inconsistent season. Will they improve in 2017 with another year under their belts and the addition of some intriguing freshmen?
Burning Question #1:
Which returning receiver is the top candidate for a breakout year?
In 2015, KaVontae Turpin (Monroe, LA) burst onto the scene as a national freshman of the year candidate, adding a dimension of speed and elusiveness to a TCU offensive that fit him seamlessly. But when injuries robbed his effectiveness a season later, no star stepped up in his place. With TCU losing only a single contributor from that team (Deante Gray to graduation), there are plenty of good options when looking for the next potential breakout star.
Big things were expected out of Isaiah Graham (Bastrop, LA), a top 50 receiver nationally who was an early-enrollee last January. After some early drops and route-running miscues, Graham had the kind of performance in TCU’s Liberty Bowl matchup against Georgia that could pay huge dividends in 2017. Graham showcased the speed and physicality that makes him such a special player; at 6’1” he has the size to make plays in the air, and also the fearlessness to go across the middle and make a tough catch with contact.
Another player to watch is rising senior Emanuel Porter (Lincoln), a player with all of the tools and all of the measurables to be great. But after showing flashes of greatness in limited action behind Josh Doctson (Mansfield Legacy) and Kolby Listenbee (Bowie) in his first two seasons on campus, he struggled in his first try at being the guy, in part due to family tragedy off the field. Porter has always felt like a player that was *this close* to putting the pieces together and becoming the star he seems destined to be; hopefully 2017 is the year the puzzle finally becomes complete for him
Burning Question #2:
Which returning receiver needs to have a bounceback campaign?
As a unit, TCU’s wide receivers underperformed in 2016 – they were one of the nation’s leaders in drops. Though not necessarily young, they were somewhat inexperienced, and that showed up when the lights shone brightest. The talent of this group is undeniable though, and if they perform at or near the level they are capable of, they will be explosive.
One player who needs to display more consistency is JUCO transfer Taj Williams (Lincoln, Tallahassee), a guy who seemed destined for greatness after an eye-popping 11 receptions for 158 yards and a touchdown – but finished with only 39 catches for 702 yards and five scores. 28 receptions over 12 games isn’t going to get it done. With the physical tools and solid route-running, there’s no reason Williams can’t be better in 2017.
Turpin is the other obvious candidate; after missing five games due to injury, and not looking close to 100% on his return, TCU’s most explosive player has to return to form in 2017 in order for the Frogs to reach their offensive potential. Turpin was a force as a receiver and return man in his freshman campaign, but was limited to just 30 catches for 295 yards and a single TD reception as a sophomore. A healthy Turpin changes the dynamic of the entire offense and play-calling, and him returning to form will go a long way towards a bounce back season overall for the Frogs.
Burning Question #3:
Which incoming freshman will be an instant impact player?
TCU signed three dynamic playmakers at wide receiver: Jalen Reagor and Kenedy Snell of Waxahachie and Omar Manning of Lancaster. All three have incredible physical gifts – Snell is one of the fastest players in the state, while Reagor and Manning possess the magic combination of size and speed that should having future opposing defensive backs losing sleep. But the player most likely to step on the field and immediately make a difference is Reagor, a polished route runner with great feet, quickness off the line of scrimmage, and the strength to battle defenders at the point of contact. Reagor has great wheels and exceptional hands, and while it’s highly likely all three will play as true freshmen this fall, he is the most college ready from day one of camp and could be a candidate for Big 12 Freshman of the Year.
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