Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Wide Receivers / Tight Ends

The wide receivers and tight ends, positions that the Crusader faithful seem to take for granted at times, are an efficient and persistent unit that are recipients of much of Holy Cross' offense success over recent years. While Dominic Randolph will always overshadow many offensive players from 2006-2009, there have been more than a handful of receivers during this time that have put up huge numbers.

The following former and current Crusader wideouts highlight this success: Thomas Harrison (130 rec, 1,720 yards, 12 td's) Ryan Maher (146 rec, 1,724 yards, 16 td's), Brett McDermott (138 rec, 1,736 yards, 14 td's), Jon Brock (129 rec, 1,721 yards, 18 td's), Ryan McGuire (42 rec, 456 yards, 5 td's), Bill Edger (73 rec, 1,163 yards, 9 td's), Luke Chmielinski (87 rec, 1,065 yards, 5 td's) (pictured right), Freddie Santana (73 rec, 911 yards, 11 td's), Alex Schneider (33 rec, 275 yards, 6 td's), and even out of the backfield Terrance Gass  and Matt Bellomo have been great threats in the passing attack; the numbers speak for themselves. The preceding names have garnered a combined five All-Patriot League first team selections, and six second team selections. But, more importantly, Holy Cross football went a combined 30-15 in this four year span. Any one of these talented receivers would tell you that the win and loss record is far more important than individual statistics. The current receiving corps has the same mentality.

By my count, there will be eight receivers and tight ends catching passes for the Crusaders in 2010. Figure that there will also be two or three running backs catching passes out of the backfield, and Holy Cross will have ten legitimate options to catch the ball. The fact that there is a constant rotation of receivers shuffling in and out of the game makes it impossible to be a selfish offensive player. The sheer depth of the wide receivers and tight ends makes for relatively balanced numbers to be put up across the board. Of course, there will be some receivers that are the "go-to" guys, but in general many of the receivers are interchangeable. This depth and balance, while great for any quarterback and offensive coordinator to have during the season, actually hurts the receivers come selection time for All-Patriot League teams. Case in point: Brett McDermott.

I won't go too far into this story as it is not entirely relevant to the receivers in 2010, but Brett McDermott missing the All-League team was something that really irked me back in 2008. Not only did he miss the first team, but the second team as well! Explain to me how an undrafted free agent signed by the Indianapolis Colts, who happened to be one of their final cuts, did not even make the second team in the Patriot League. I am not knocking the level of football played in the PL, but if a player from the PL is on an NFL roster, it is safe to assume he was a member of an All-League team. Was Brett McDermott talented enough to make even the second team? Yes, of course. The fact that McDermott was not selected to an All-League team, however, speaks volumes to the depth of Holy Cross' receivers. I am not necessarily critiquing the people that select these teams because so many times an All-League team is selected purely by numbers and numbers alone.

In 2008, McDermott caught 43 balls for 491 yards and 5 touchdowns. The receivers who did have bigger and more impressive numbers made the All-League teams, and Brett was the odd man out. When HC has eight different players who routinely catch the football, it makes it hard to compile huge numbers. I am sure the Crusaders' coaching staff is not complaining about this one bit--not making an All-League team due to how deep and how much talent there is on a team is never a bad thing.

Now, back to the 2010 Crusaders. As Holy Cross Football has restored its winning tradition in recent years, more talented recruits naturally are attracted and come into the program. Three freshman receivers on last year's Patriot League championship squad--Gerald Mistretta, Nick Mercurio, and Kyle Toulouse--all received significant playing time throughout the year. There are five incoming receivers in the 2014 class, and there is no reason to think that a few of these receivers cannot contribute this season. Even though there are a multitude of speedsters that Holy Cross can send out to haul in the pigskin, I believe that there are four primary targets: Luke Chmielinski, Freddie Santana, Bill Edger, and Alex Schneider. 

Chmielinski and Santana are similar to one another as many of their routes are of the shorter variety and go across the middle of the field; they are both "possession" type receivers, if you will. Being shifty, quick, and elusive, they are not afraid to go across the middle and catch the ball in traffic. While the two are certainly capable of breaking out into the open for a big gain, this part of the passing game is usually left up to the Crusaders' biggest outside threat in Bill Edger. The average yards per reception dictates the type of receivers the aforementioned Chmielinski and Santana are as compared to Edger. Last season, Luke was at 12.8 yards per catch, Freddie at 13.1, and Edger was just shy of 17 at 16.7. Edger has a couple of inches in height on both Chmielinski and Santana, and also great leaping ability which makes for a supreme outside target. One has to look no further than the Villanova game last year to understand how valuable Edger is on the outside for the Crusaders. Edger torched Villanova's All-Colonial Athletic Association third team cornerback James Pitts on multiple occasions as he brought down seven catches for 104 yards and a score.

Possibly the most integral part of the equation, that has been seldom mentioned yet, is tight end Alex Schneider (pictured right). In 2009, Schneider began the year third on the depth chart, and did not appear to figure into the rotation at tight end. Paul Nielsen and Josh Nims were both very capable tight ends who were exceptional blockers and had sure hands. Neither were flashy players or game changers, but they both could fill the void left by tight end Ryan McGuire upon his graduation. Nielsen, the primary starter, looked as if he would fit into the offense beautifully as he caught the first touchdown pass of the season against Georgetown. As fate would have it, however, Nielsen went down with a season ending injury against the Hoyas, and HC was left looking for another option at tight end. Enter: Alex Schneider. As the season progressed, Schneider developed into one of Dominic Randolph's primary targets, especially in the red zone. In fact, all of his six touchdown receptions came inside the 20 yard line. At 6-7 and 257 pounds, Schneider has appropriately been given the nickname "Tree," as he takes up a tremendous amount of space on the field and can really stretch a defense; he provides an endless amount of match-up problems for an opposing defense.

When HC goes into their "heavy" package, look for Josh Hauser (Hauser is also a member of the Holy Cross baseball team as a pitcher) and Reed Apfelbaum to enter the game as a second tight end. Don't be surprised if whomever the Crusaders' starting quarterback is this year finds Alex Schneider to be his go-to guy.

Many acknowledge how talented and proficient the Holy Cross receiving corps has been in the last few years. Many stars were illuminated as Dominic Randolph gave them the opportunity to shine on Saturday afternoons. Upon the graduation of Randolph, however, some have been left wondering how these receivers will get the ball. Obviously losing a quarterback of Randolph's caliber will pose a greater challenge to the receivers, but know that the new starting quarterback is in good hands with the slew of receivers that HC can put on the field at any moment. The only issue is, given the depth of talented and proven receivers on the Crusaders roster, not all of them may find their way onto an All-League team at season's end.

KD '11

1 comment:

  1. KD - you seriously should consider a career in journalism