By Shehan Jeyarajah
Ever since the beginning of the Art Briles era in 2008, Baylor has been characterized by strong receiver play. David Gettis, Kendall Wright, Josh Gordon and Terrance Williams are wide receivers from Baylor who have been drafted since the Briles era began. All four Baylor products are expected to produce for NFL teams this season.
This 2013 team has much of the same talent as other teams that were under the direction of Briles, but the vast majority of this receiving corps is unknown and unproven.
“We’ve got some guys who can play,” head coach Art Briles said. “A few of them are unproven, but the only way to get proven is get on the field and do it. When you get your driver’s license, you can’t drive. Once you start driving, you think you know how to do it. Once they get on the field and play in game-like situations, the experience factor is gone.”
The most accomplished receiver in this rotation is senior inside receiver Tevin Reese. Reese, who played with junior running back Lache Seastrunk at Temple High School, was second on the team in receiving with 957 yards and nine touchdowns last season behind All-American and current Dallas Cowboys receiver Terrance Williams.
Reese is known for his exceptional speed and at Temple was a state qualifier in track.
While at Baylor, Reese has been one of the best deep threats in Baylor history.
In the two seasons that he has had 50 or more receptions, he has averaged 17.6 yards per catch.
To put that into perspective, Kendall Wright, the most prolific receiver in Baylor history, had a career average of 13.3 yards per catch. Reese said he enjoys making the dynamic play but doesn’t want to singularly be known as just a home run hitter.
“I want to show people I’m not just a deep threat,” Reese said. “I want to show I can catch the little ten yard outs and make something out of it. Just go out there and play physical.”
The other returner at inside receiver is junior Waco product Levi Norwood. He had a breakout season with 487 yards and a touchdown last year with Nick Florence at quarterback. Norwood could play a similar role in the offense this season.
Perhaps the most anticipated debut is that of freshman wide receiver and Fort Worth product Robbie Rhodes. Rhodes was rated as a five-star recruit by scout.com and picked Baylor over offers from University of Oklahoma, University of Texas and Texas A&M University. Scout.com also rated Rhodes as the second best wide receiver in the nation.
Big 12 analyst Max Olson from ESPN named Rhodes as one of his top five impact Big 12 freshmen due to his “elite speed and size” for the wide receiver position.
Despite Coach Briles saying he has “exceptional talent,” Rhodes has also impressed with his humbleness and personality.
“Robbie’s got a lot of great qualities and football might be on the back end of them,” Briles said. “He’s a fun-loving young man with no evil in his heart. This is just a gracious human being. That’s what gives him the opportunity to be exceptional.”
Rhodes said he wants to help the team in any way he can this season.
“I just want to fit in,” Rhodes said. “Just be a team player, role player, whatever they need me to be.”
Outside of the three established names, the Bears may have some hidden gems.
Midland junior Antwan Goodley is a versatile player at the wide receiver position. Last season, Goodley had 171 yards receiving, 26 yards rushing and two receiving touchdowns to go along with 542 kick return yards in limited action.
“Goodley is a guy that potentially could be a very, very dynamic player,” Coach Briles said. “You’re talking about a guy that’s big and that ran a 21.2 [seconds] in high school in 200 [meters]. He’s an exceptional athlete that we’ll expect a lot out of this year.”
The only other receiver with any game experience is Clay Fuller, a junior receiver from Bulverde. Fuller may not get many opportunities on this team, but there are few players with a more entertaining backstory.
Fuller was drafted into Major League Baseball, and played in the Los Angeles Angels organization for six years.
He is now 26 years old and still has two years of NCAA eligibility left.
After retiring from baseball in 2011, Fuller walked onto the football team and was awarded a scholarship before this season. Fuller is a 6-foot-1-inch tall receiver who runs a 4.34 40-yard dash, which is faster than noted Baylor speedster Tevin Reese. Fuller is a backup at both inside and wide receiver.
Sophomore wide receiver Jay Lee of Allen and redshirt freshman Corey Coleman of Richardson both appear on the preseason depth chart even though neither of them have any statistical measures yet.
Junior quarterback Bryce Petty is encouraged by the talent and depth he sees at the receiver position.
“The receivers are having a great camp,” Petty said. “There’s not really one receiver I have special chemistry with. I love all those guys. When you look at all of them on paper, they are all special.”
Redshirt freshman quarterback Seth Russell agrees with Petty’s assessment of the receiving corps.
“The receivers are awesome. They’re definitely the best,” Russell said. “You can throw it to anybody, and they’re going to catch it. That’s definitely a great feeling to have when you’re a quarterback.”
Baylor football begins its 2013 season at 6:30 p.m. Saturday against Wofford in the final season at Floyd Casey Stadium.