Aug. 5, 2011
This is the tenth and final installment of a series that will breakdown Stanford by position as the Cardinal prepare for the start of training camp on Monday, August 8. In this segment, we take a look at Stanford's group of wide receivers.
STANFORD, Calif. --High on Stanford's list of priorities when training camp opens Monday is to identify playmakers among its group of returning wide receivers to offset the loss of its two top pass catchers from a year ago in Doug Baldwin and Ryan Whalen, who combined to catch 99 passes for 1,296 yards and 11 touchdowns.
There is no shortage of candidates. Senior Chris Owusu, the team's second-leading receiver in 2009, was limited to just seven games a year ago due to injury but still managed to catch 25 passes for 396 yards and three touchdowns. One of the most exciting players in college football, a healthy Owusu gives the Cardinal a dangerous deep threat and a veteran presence in a receiving corps eager to establish itself.
"Chris Owusu has been a very productive player for us and is one of the most dynamic players in college football," said offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, who will work closely with the wide receivers, in addition to his duties as quarterbacks coach. "Anytime he is on the field, he has the opportunity to make a big play."
Hamilton makes no secret that keeping Owusu healthy is a huge key for Stanford's success in 2011.
"Durability has been an issue with Chris in the past but hopefully it won't be in the future," said Hamilton.
Head coach David Shaw mentioned Stanford will take necessary precautions with its multi-talented receiver during training camp.
"We will make sure we take the pounding off him during training camp," Shaw said. "We need Chris to play in every game."
While Owusu ranks as Stanford's most experienced receiver with 67 career receptions for 1,158 yards and eight touchdowns, the four other returning wide outs - senior Griff Whalen, juniors Jamal-Rashad Patterson and Drew Terrell, along with third-year sophomore Jemari Roberts - combined to catch just 24 passes for 327 yards and one touchdown last season, with Whalen (17-249-1) accounting for most of the production.
"It's time for those guys to show they have progressed, have learned the offense and let their natural talents take over and make plays for us on Saturdays," said Hamilton. "Those guys are working their tails off and the quarterback is challenging them to be consistent. They all have big shoes to fill."
Hamilton harkens back to last season when Baldwin, who caught just four passes in 2009, emerged as one of the best receivers in the country, finishing with a team-high 58 receptions, including nine touchdowns.
While the need to establish quality depth at the wide receiver position is paramount, Stanford is comforted in knowing it has one of the most talented tight ends trio in the nation, including Coby Fleener, Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo, who combined to catch 45 passes for 651 yards and 12 touchdowns a year ago.
"The best thing we have over their heads is the tight end group," said Shaw. "If the receivers don't step up, we'll throw the ball to the tight ends."