With a quick scan of NFL rosters, the latest crop of Baylor wide receivers can see the bar is set exceptionally high.
Tennessee’s Kendall Wright, Cleveland’s Josh Gordon and Dallas’ Terrance Williams have all come through Baylor coach Art Briles’ offensive system, and Tevin Reese might be the next receiver to make an NFL team.
But the current Baylor receivers aren’t intimidated by the standard set by predecessors. They see it as a challenge.
“We’ve had a lot of great receivers, so you try to do better than them,” Baylor sophomore receiver Corey Coleman said. “They (Baylor’s upperclassmen) teach you a lot of stuff, and you learn from the way they play. I’m really excited about the upcoming season.”
The Bears feature an explosive mix of veterans and young receivers eager to make an impact. With Big 12 offensive player of the year Bryce Petty back for his senior year at quarterback, the receivers have shown tremendous confidence and catching skills during spring drills.
“With Bryce, you’ve just got to be at the right place at the right time, and he’s going to put it where it needs to be,” Baylor sophomore receiver Robbie Rhodes said. “I’m just getting used to doing reps with Bryce, and getting the feel with it. The veterans have helped a lot because I see how they run routes, and it inspires me to do the same thing.”
Senior Antwan Goodley is coming off an All-American season in which he made 71 catches for 1,339 yards and 13 touchdowns, while senior Levi Norwood made 47 catches for 733 yards and eight touchdowns. Senior Clay Fuller, who has been out with an injury this spring, made 32 catches for 512 yards and three scores last year.
Goodley enjoyed stepping into a leadership role last year, and believes he can provide even more guidance for the younger receivers next season.
“I know a lot of these guys look up to me, so I’m getting better every day, and hopefully these guys feed off that,” Goodley said. “It’s always good having a guy like Bryce (Petty). He’s motivated and has high energy and gets us going.”
While Goodley brings tremendous speed to the table, the Bears are seeking another deep threat to step in for Reese. Coleman and Rhodes appear to be the leading candidates to stretch the field.
Coleman made 35 catches for 527 yards and two touchdowns last season, but is looking forward to putting up bigger numbers this year. After making 10 catches for 157 yards last year, Rhodes could make a major jump after struggling with hamstring and ankle injuries as a true freshman.
“It was real frustrating because every time I got well the injuries would come,” Rhodes said. “I think I can help mainly with my speed and ability to catch the ball and get open. I think I can stretch the field with deep balls.”
Junior Jay Lee will also be in the mix after making 22 catches for 309 yards and a touchdown last season. Highly recruited true freshman Davion Hall graduated early from Texarkana Liberty-Eylau High School to participate in spring drills, but has missed most of the spring with a shoulder injury. Briles said Hall will be ready for preseason drills in August.
“We’re making sure that we’re developing people around Antwan, Levi and Clay,” Briles said. “We’re developing guys you have to take notice of, which opens up our offense. We just have to make sure we put them in position to produce. Robbie has had an outstanding spring along with Corey.”
Petty can’t help but smile when he sees all his options at receiver. He knows they bring a variety of skills that can burn defenses.
“They’re unbelievable, and always have been,” Petty said. “Coach Briles and his staff do a great job of recruiting everybody, but especially wide receivers. If you’re a good wide receiver, I don’t know why you don’t want to come here. This is a great offense for it. We’ve got a lot of new guys, a lot of guys that are ready to step up.”
BEAR FACTS: Baylor will practice Thursday and Friday before completing spring drills with Saturday’s 11 a.m. scrimmage that will be open to the public. Baylor coach Art Briles likes the way his team has progressed. “It’s going real good, we’re winding down and getting better. We’ve had some guys really make some moves this spring at positions where we’re inexperienced. They’ve done a good job at filling in and making contributions.”