On the offensive side of the ball there was just one pleasant surprise this past season, and that would be the wide receivers. I know some in the WNY media have called out the group for 'quitting' on routes and in general but given the state of the team as a whole which one unit was the least responsible for the week to week curb stompings inflicted on our offense.
Best of all they were young. UB Played no true freshman at wideout last season meaning some of the 2009 recruit and pretty much everyone who did see the field comes back this season. It's almost embarrassing how much experience comes back this season, or more accurately it will be embarrassing if UB does not manage to do something with it.
The Big issues coming into 2010 had to do with hands of stone and inexperience. Marcus Rivers who had every single tool you want a wide out to possess looked awful in 2009. Mainly because no matter how open he got he could not take in a pass. Then there was the fact that Neutz and Lee were going to be called upon to play, two redshirt freshman in a new system for which they were not recruited.
The only experienced receiver we had was Terell Jackson who's prior work had him as a fourth fiddle behind Roosevelt, Hamlin, and Jesse Rack.
Jackson led the unit will, Rivers hands improved and the young receivers played well above what you expect from freshman. Sure there were a couple of instances where Rivers Reverted or Neutz/Lee looked like freshman but per year, even I could not have been happier with how the receivers did last season.
So how did Coach Quinn augment the unit:
The Need: The Need: Receivers are like Running Backs you need to pick up at least one a year even if you are drowning in them. Having a class without a receiver is a huge mistake. Even if you eventually have to move him to a defensive back, or just use him as a return specialist, there must be a get for the class. The same can be said for tight ends it's an abusive position and you should have at least a little depth.
Because the structural need is so lite any scholarship used towards a receiver has to have a pretty big upside. The need for a Tight End was a little more drastic as nobody really stepped up in a big way last season. There were flashes from Jake Reeder and Alex Dennison might work out well but right now UB has no proven commodity playing at that position.
Ron Willoughby: The Lorain Morning Journal Player of the Year is a tall lanky receiver who owns several school records. He was the go to guy for Avon Lake pulling in 54 receptions for 900 yards during his senior year. That effort got him named second team all Ohio.
Willoughby is a true athlete how has excelled wherever he played including on the hardwood where he has been key to the recent success of Avon Lakes basketball team.
Willoughby signed relatively early on in the process. Back in the middle of the summer he attended one of coach Quinn's Camp. His athleticism impressed the Buffalo staff anough to extend him a scholarship offer. The Buffalo staff impressed him enough that Willoughby needed no time to think about it.
"They were the best coaching staff I've talked to so far and I love the campus down here" -- Ron Willoughby
Matt Weiser: Weiser is the lone Pennsylvania recruit of this class. A very late commit he brings an impressive set of hands to the tight end spot. Catching 54 passes for more than a thousand yards is an impressive set of numbers for even a straight receiver but to get it done as a tight end speaks volumes of why Coach Quinn extended the offer.
Matt was a second-team All-State selection and was named the receiver of the year for both his league and county. While its a bit under the radar Weiser is actually one of UB's best ever signees. He is slated as the 62nd best tight end prospect in the nation by ESPN Recruiting.
He has solid height and bulk and while he still needs to add more size he should be able to fill his frame out with time in a college weight program. As a receiver he flashes good hands. You would like to see him more consistently catch the ball away from his body, but he does flash the ability to extend his arms and snatch the ball out of the air. He displays good concentration to look the ball in and catch it in a crowd. --ESPN
Wiser may eventually compete for a key role in this offense. When Jake Reeder went down the tight end position seemed to have completely disappear. While Alex Dennison has the potential to be a big play guy, as displayed in the limited special teams work he got, he is still an unproven commodity on the end.
Reggie McKnight: Put a big bold asterisk next to McKnights name. Despite the verbal commitment he did not sign a LOI. He seems to have fallen completely off the map, neither committing to another school or coming out as a DNQ. One of UB Nations great blood hounds, UBAD from ubfan, has indicted that McKnight will be joining this class.
Until something concrete emerges I cannot treat McKnight as a get but there is enough gravity around him to warrant a mention . McKnight was the Spartans leading receiver, pulling in 31 receptions for 444 yards (14.1 yards per reception). Hollywood Hills was a run first team with 75% of their plays from scrimmage were runs but when they did pass it was usually to McKnight (47% team receptions).
If McKnight does come through he is a nice addition to the depth of the unit and has been able, at least at the prep level, to be a successful key receiver.
Wide Receivers Grade: (B+ Without McKnight, A- With McKnight)
Because the need was so lite the bar was set pretty low. One good serviceable receiver to shore up depth in an offense that will often put five guys out there and a play making tight end. Quinn hit both of those with Willoughby and Wiser. McKnight, at this point, would just be an extra bonus.
Willoughby strike me as a Neutz like recruit. Athletic fast and with soft hands. Neutz has been working out so well thats its hard not to be excited about Willoughby.
Wieser might develop into a great pass catching tight end that this offense is going to need. I like an offense that can burn you with a tight end and Weiser is certainly one of those guys.
I am trying not to throw around any A's except where extreme need met extreme gains and that's the only reason that this receiving class is not an A. The needs were not extreme so despite the quality of Willoughby and Weiser I cant see throwing an A.