Position Group Preview: Receivers, Tight Ends, Slot Backs

On Part 2 of our Position Group Preview, I will take a look at the pass catchers. In Bob DeBesse’s offense that is broken down into three categories: slot backs, wide receivers, and tight ends. For our Part 1 look at the backfield, go here.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Colby Ransom 5-11 195 R-Sr., Darion Anderson 6-0 195 R-Jr.
Backups: Mark Michaud 6-4 220 Sr., Dexter Carter Jr. 6-0 195 R-Jr., Jallah Zeze Jr. 6-0 220 R-Fr., Mills Ridings 6-2 195 R-Fr., Emil Smith 6-1 170 Fr., Drew Rutledge 6-0 185 Fr.
Losses: Obe Fortune, Marcus Rogers, Scoobie Ford, Davarius Bargnare
There wasn’t a position group that saw more turmoil this offseason than wide receiver. Since the launch of the transfer portal on October 15, 2018, four players have decided to transfer out of Georgia Southern. This includes starter Obe Fortune and three members of Chad Lunsford’s first recruiting class: Davarius Bargnare, Christian “Scoobie” Ford, and Marcus Rogers. Bargnare and Ford were both highly rated recruits and were projected to be a big part of the offense over the next four years, whether that was at slot or out wide. Rogers and Ford transferred to junior colleges in Iowa and Bargnare joined the Campbell Camels. No word on Fortune as of yet.
Playing wide receiver in a triple option offense is not for everyone. It involves a lot of blocking and decoy work. But if you have what it takes, it does lend itself to big plays through the air. Darion Anderson caught four passes all of last year, but three of them were touchdowns, and his average per reception was 40 yards. Believe it or not, you can end up in the NFL playing WR on a triple option team. Paul Johnson had four receivers drafted during his tenure at GT, including five-time Pro Bowler Demaryius Thomas. It requires patience and toughness to play in this offense, however. Only Georgia Southern Men need apply.
Despite the departures, the situation at wide receiver in 2019 is not that bad for the Eagles. Seniors Colby Ransom and Mark Michaud have been through all the trials and tribulations of the past four years and are outstanding outside blockers. Darion Anderson will be the deep threat after a breakout year in 2018. Dexter Carter Jr. has worked mostly on special teams since joining the Eagles but could potentially see more playing time on offense with the depleted depth. Jallah Zeze and Emil Smith are both three-star recruits with promise. Mills Redding and Drew Rutledge are walk-ons that will most likely contribute on special teams.

Slot Backs

Starter: NaJee Thompson 5-11 195 So.
Backups: Malik Murray 6-0 180 R-Jr., Juanyea Tarver 5-10 185 R-Jr., Darius Lewis 5-10 170 Fr., Khaleb Hood 5-10 170 Fr.
The slotback is the wild card in the triple option. In DeBesse’s offense, you can expect slot backs to provide the motion key, get involved in the pitch game, block, and catch passes. Last year Wesley Kennedy was the primary slot man, but with the departures of Wesley Fields and Monteo Garrett at RB, Kennedy’s talents will be required there. Kennedy might still line up in the slot from time to time depending on say if LaRoche emerges into a consistent homerun threat. But assuming WK III stays at RB, Najee Thompson will be the man here. Thompson holds the South Carolina state record in the 200m dash, fast doesn’t even begin to describe him. He played 12 games last year as a true freshman and is best known for a blocked punt vs. ULM and a fumble recovery vs. Texas State. I’m excited to see what he can do in an expanded role.
Behind Kennedy and Thompson is Malik Murray and Juanyea Tarver. Tarver sat out last year after transferring from Morehead State where he was their primary kick and punt returner. Darius Lewis and Khaleb Hood are speedy true freshmen that will most likely redshirt unless there are injuries.

Tight Ends

Starter: Cam Brown 6-2 235 R-Jr.
Backups: D.J. Butler 6-2 230 R-So., Robb Bozeman 6-4 260 R-Jr., Emory McKenzie 6-2 235 R-Jr., Beau Johnson 6-1 225 Fr., Trace Dominy 6-4 235 Fr., Chase Hancock 6-0 245 Fr.
Losses: Ellis Richardson
In Georgia Southern’s pistol/gun option scheme the Tight End/Cruiser/H-Back is used to block the backside or as a lead blocker, occasionally catching passes in the red zone. Ellis Richardson did a superb job at this over the past two seasons. Richardson has graduated and is off to bigger and better things (Chicago Bears), and the position is up for grabs. Cam Brown will probably be the full-time starter next season, but it’s not set in stone. He started four games last season while Richardson was injured, which makes him the most experienced tight end on the roster.
Behind Brown, D.J. Butler played in all 13 games last season mostly on special teams, his role on offense could expand. A pair of transfers, Robb Bozeman and Emory McKenzie, could push Brown and Butler for playing time. Bozeman is a wide-bodied former D-lineman from Widener College who made the team via the Edwin Jackson Memorial Walk-On Tryouts. At 6-4 260 he has the potential to be a devastating lead blocker. Emory McKenzie came to Statesboro from City College of San Francisco after spending his freshman year at Furman. He moved over from linebacker after spring practice. The Eagles added three TEs in their 2019 recruiting class in Beau Johnson, Trace Dominy, and Chase Hancock. Beau Johnson is the highest rated out of that group and could see some playing time in the fall.

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