The departures of Andre Levrone and Doni Dowling leaves the Virginia offense with a void at the wide receiver position. The duo combined to make up 28% of the team’s catches, 41% of the team’s receiving yards, and 48% of UVA’s receiving touchdowns in 2017.
Dowling was a clear second on the team with 50 catches. Meanwhile, Levrone led the Hoos with 7 touchdowns and in yards per catch with an average of 20.26 (Dowling was a distant second with 12.94 yards per catch).
Bronco Mendenhall expressed a desire to add an experienced receiver with size via the transfer market in the offseason. Barring any late additions, it appears he will be unsuccessful. Who will step up to fill the void left at wide receiver?
99 Virginia Football Thoughts Before Kickoff: No. 53 – Filling The Void At Wide Receiver.
We know about Olamide Zaccheaus, who easily led the Cavaliers in receptions and receiving yards last season as a junior. Not only has he shouldered a large role in the past, it appears he has bonded well with junior college transfer Bryce Perkins, who was named the team’s starting quarterback this spring. Look for another big season out of OZ.
We know Virginia has spread the wealth in terms of receptions. Eight players finished with double-digit receptions in 2017. Look for the offense to continue to utilize the running backs and the tight ends – specifically, Evan Butts – in the passing game again. Butts’ reliability should be a big help to Perkins, though Virginia may need him to increase his production from last year’s 32-catch, 266-yard junior campaign.
There is OZ, Butts, and the running backs. Who is in line to replace the production Dowling and Levrone left behind?
The Likely Candidates
1. Joe Reed. The obvious pick, Reed was my pick to have a breakout season last year. While he certainly showed his playmaking skills and proved to be a top kick returner, Reed needs to raise his game as a wide receiver. After hauling in 14 catches his first five games last season, he managed just 9 receptions in the final seven. This is the year for the versatile talent to become a consistent producer at the receiver spot.
2. Hasise Dubois. Dubois has size and physicality. The 6’3”, 215-pound rising junior has flashed a good set of hands as well. Gaining separation has been an issue at times, but I believe Dubois has the ability to increase his catch numbers to around 30 (he had 16 last season) while also establishing himself as a serious jump-ball end-zone threat.
3. Terrell Jana. Jana was a big-time playmaker as UVA backup quarterback Lindell Stone’s top target at Woodberry Forest. He played in all 13 games last year, an experience that should help despite the fact that he didn’t receive a lot of targets. Given last year’s taste of major college football and the ability he showed in high school, year two could be a breakout one for Jana.
1. De’Vante Cross. I hope Cross will shed the utility position label and focus on one position, which likely is receiver. He has size and athleticism, we just haven’t seen him get much opportunity to date. If he can focus only on receiver, he should have a chance to show his abilities.
2. Cole Blackman. Blackman suffered a season-ending leg injury in fall camp last year. Whether or not he’ll be 100% remains to be seen. If healthy, though, Blackman has solid size and great hands and could develop into a quality possession guy.
3. Any of the incoming first-years. Tavares Kelly, Billy Kemp, Ugo Obasi, and Wooby Theork all will have a chance to compete for early playing time. Obasi is the only player over 6’0”, but Kelly and Theork have speed and Kemp has quickness and good football savvy. Are any of the freshmen ready to contribute on the ACC level?
Longshot To Root For
Ben Hogg – The former walk-on who worked his way to scholarship status started two of the team’s first four games last season, hauling in 2 catches for 16 yards before an injury put him on the sidelines for the rest of the season. He returns as a 5th-year senior, a testament to the respect Coach Mendenhall has for his hard work and effort. The former Brookville (Lynchburg, VA) star probably won’t have a major impact on the field. It would be fun to see him prove me wrong, though.
The “99 Virginia Football Thoughts Before Kickoff” series has discussed much more. The previous articles are below. Click away.
- No. 99 – The importance of a fast start
- No. 98 – The impact of early-ending careers
- No. 97 – Jordan Mack’s role
- No. 96 – Welcome Back
- No. 95 – Han Solo Says
- No. 94 -Smart Addition
- No. 93 – The Center Spot
- No. 92 – Finding A Punt Returner
- No. 91 – Facing Running Quarterbacks
- No. 90 – Interceptions
- No. 89 – Kickoff Times
- No. 88 – QB Optimism Not Enough To Tilt Early Predictions Too Far
- No. 87 – It Starts With Jordan Ellis
- No. 86 – Virginia’s Most Dangerous Game
- No. 85 – The Tight End Swan Song?
- No. 84 – Teach A Man To Fish
- No. 83 – No Ordinary Joe
- No. 82 – Now Or Then
- No. 81 – How To Treat The Kickoff Rule Change
- No. 80 – Play, But Still Redshirt
- No. 79 – Which Red Zone Offense Is The Real One?
- No. 78 – Schedule For Success
- No. 77 – Who’s The Worst?
- No. 76 – ACC Coach Rankings
- No. 75 – Keep That Cold Weather Gear
- No. 74 – 1,000 Target For OZ
- No. 73 – Cross Out Cross-Training For Cross
- No. 72 – Punting Plans
- No. 71 – Redshirted … Ready?
- No. 70 – A June Jolt
- No. 69 – Who?
- No. 68 – Stops To Start Second Half
- No. 67 – Root, Root, Root For …
- No. 66 – Wildcard Extras
- No. 65 – Defense Showed Red Zone Improvement
- No. 64 – Welcome Back, Mr. Robinson
- No. 63 – The Florida Footprint
- No. 62 – True Freshmen Will Play, But Who Will Make The Most Impact?
- No. 61 – Four Fireworks-Worthy Moments In The Bronco Mendenhall Era
- No. 60 – Juan Thornhill Primed For An All-ACC Caliber Season
- No. 59 – Rebuilding The Offensive Line Is On Schedule
- No. 58 – Bouncing Back On The Defensive Line
- No. 57 – Underrated Hoos
- No. 56 – Lordy, Lordy, How ‘Bout 40?
- No. 55 – Peace Talk
- No. 54 – Hoos’ Handle On Social Media Bodes Well For Future Recruiting