by Kevin Trahan (@k_trahan)
Demetrius Fields, Senior
After starting four games as a redshirt freshman, Fields started every game as a sophomore and junior. He caught 32 passes for 382 yards and three touchdowns in 2011, including an impressive seven-reception, 73-yard performance in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas.
Fields was NU’s fourth-leading receiver in 2011, but now that Jeremy Ebert and Drake Dunsmore have graduated, Kain Colter will likely stick primarily to quarterback and Fields will be the only senior, he will be called upon to lead the group.
That’s not to say Fields will necessarily be Colter’s main target — NU’s receiving corps is arguably the deepest and the best in the Big Ten and Colter will likely spread the ball around — but his production should increase in 2012.
Christian Jones, Sophomore
Jones was one of the most hyped members of NU’s 2011 recruiting class and made a small impact on the field last season, catching 16 passes for 195 yards, and earned his first start midway through the season.
As mentioned above, it’s tough to tell who could emerge as NU’s leading receivers in 2012 because there are so many talented targets available. However, Jones will likely enter the fall as the Wildcats’ No. 2 target on paper.
Jones is extremely talented, so with a year of experience under his belt he has the potential to have a breakout year. His receptions total may not be that high, but expect to see some of the potential he showed coming out of high school.
Kyle Prater*, Sophomore
Prater’s status as a projected starter is, obviously, predicated on the assumption that he will be able to play in 2012. He transferred from USC and is still awaiting an NCAA waiver for immediate eligibility.
The Wildcats’ season hopes don’t live and die on the NCAA’s decision, but Prater is one of the most talented players to NU in Pat Fitzgerald’s tenure and his 6-5, 215-pound frame could make him the Cats’ top target. He was a consensus five-star recruit and All-American at Proviso West High School in Maywood, Ill. and Scout ranked him the No. 2 receiver in the country.
Prater redshirted his freshman year at USC and missed most of his redshirt freshman campaign due to injury. He transferred to NU due to family reasons and to be closer to home.
Prater was cleared for spring practice, and despite a lot of hype, he wasn’t a major contributor and didn’t see the ball very often. However, he made some spectacular catches and showed glimpses of his extraordinarily high potential. With the summer to learn the NU offense he should be ready to go by the fall and will likely contribute right away if he is ruled eligible by the NCAA.
Tony Jones*, Sophomore
Since Prater still hasn’t been cleared, there’s a chance for another NU receiver to earn the starting job. With so many talented receivers, a lot of players will see the field, but the last potential starting spot is still up in the air.
Jones has been flying under the radar after missing the entire 2011 season due to a PCL tear in fall camp. However, he had a promising freshman campaign, catching a 45-yard touchdown pass on his first career reception and finishing the season with 157 yards.
After a good spring and a redshirt year, Jones has the chance to play his way back into the lineup and could end up fighting for the final starting spot. If he can build on his promising freshman season, he could end up being a pleasant surprise for the Wildcats in 2012.
*Starter depends on if Prater receives a waiver from the NCAA to play immediately.
Rashad Lawrence, Junior
Lawrence saw the field in both his freshman and sophomore seasons, catching 19 passes for 203 yards and a touchdown in 2011, and could work his way into the starting lineup as a junior.
His production may not increase this season, as NU has so many offensive threats, but he will definitely play a role at receiver and will be yet another talented option for quarterback Kain Colter.
Cameron Dickerson, Redshirt Freshman
After redshirting his freshman season, Dickerson is poised to play at least a small role at receiver for the Wildcats in 2012. He was a three-star recruit in high school and has a good-sized frame at 6-3, 200 pounds. He had an impressive spring and should see the field, though he likely won’t start.
Pierre Youngblood-Ary, Redshirt Freshman
Another redshirt freshman, Youngblood-Ary had an impressive spring and saw a lot of reps during spring practice. At 6-3 he’s another tall target that could get some reps for the Cats during the season.
Drew Moulton, Junior — Moulton battled injuries during his first two seasons and had four catches for 40 yards in 2011. He’s a talented player who could see more playing time in 2012.
Mike Jensen, Junior — A walk-on, Jensen was a special teams player during his redshirt freshman and sophomore seasons. He switched from defensive back to receiver after his true freshman year. He could see a little bit of time at receiver this season — he had two receptions for 23 yards in 2011 — but will likely play more of a role on special teams.
Cermak Bland, Redshirt Freshman — Bland redshirted his true freshman season and likely will be a scout team or special teams player in 2012.
Torin Dupper, Sophomore — A walk-on, Dupper will likely be a scout team player with a chance to contribute on special teams.
The Recruits (All star ratings according to Scout)
Andrew Scanlan. 6-2, 200 — three-star, Royersford (PA)
Mike McHugh. 6-3, 185 — two-star, Kirkwood (MO)
The biggest concern for NU’s receivers is that there won’t be enough reps for all the talent, which is a good problem to have. On a more serious note, Prater’s waiver could be classified as a concern, but since the Wildcats have so many talented receivers behind him, failing to gain eligibility wouldn’t be a huge deal.
The bottom line is this is the most talented group of receivers Pat Fitzgerald has had during his tenure and it may be the best receiving corps in the Big Ten — what’s scary is it could be even better in 2013.
Prater’s eligibility is still a question mark, but Christian Jones, Tony Jones and possibly Dickerson or Younglbood-Ary look poised to have breakout seasons. It will be interesting to see who develops as NU’s top threats, but regardless of who steps up, Kain Colter will have plenty of help from his receivers in 2012.