BOWLING GREEN - The position on the Bowling Green State University football team that drew plenty of productivity, national attention and accolades last fall is projected as the Falcons' most lethal and most skilled position this fall.
Yet, such a preseason assessment comes even without NCAA single-season receptions leader Freddie Barnes, who caught 155 receptions during his senior season last year.
"We've got a lot of camp to go, but the depth at that position is better than anywhere on the team," BGSU coach Dave Clawson said.
Clawson believes there might be as many as eight receivers who are legitimate contenders for playing time.
"Collectively, the group is stronger than it was a year ago," Clawson said. "I think as the head coach and as sure as coach [Warren] Ruggiero [offensive coordinator], the play caller, knowing that you don't have to force-feed the ball to one position makes it a little easier.
"That was a lot of work last year, constantly moving Freddie [Barnes] around and coming up with creative ways to get him the ball. You'd much rather be able to run your base offense and just be able to take the matchups you're given."
Clawson said seniors Calvin Wiley and Tyrone Pronty, who were sidelined with season-ending injuries last season, lead the Falcons wide receiver depth chart. They're penciled in as members of the starting lineup when the Falcons kick off the season Sept. 4 at Troy University.
However, Kamar Jorden, Adrian Hodges, Ray Hutson, Justus Jones, Jordan Hopgood and Shaun Joplin are also on Clawson's list of options who have shown plenty of promise during workouts dating to the spring.
Hodges returns as the leading receiver from a year ago after finishing with 46 catches for 417 yards, including two touchdowns. Hutson ranks second statistically among the returning wideouts with 28 receptions for 239 yard and two touchdowns.
"It's a position where you cannot not show up at any practice," Clawson said. "Between No. 1 and No. 7 [wide receivers], the separation is as tight as any on our team."
The consensus among the Falcons pass-catching bunch is that whatever Barnes did alone they're capable of achieving as a unit.
"You're not going to have a solid, one, two or three, we have a depth of receivers," said Pronty, who suffered his season-ending injury (foot) during the season-opener last fall.
"That is a great thing because when one person comes out we're not losing anything when someone else comes in. You're never going to get tired. You always have someone ready to come in and replace us."
Wiley admits the jockeying for position on the depth chart has been intense but positive.
"It's good competition, but it's healthy competition," Wiley said. "We all drive each other to get better. At the same time we know if we need [to catch our breath], we can get someone else in there [during a game] and they can do the same things we can do. So, it's pretty good to have depth like that."
Finding someone to effectively replace three-year starter Tyler Sheehan at quarterback remains the No. 1 question in the Falcons camp.
Sophomore Matt Schilz has worked mostly with the No. 1 offensive unit since spring and appears to have the edge on being named the starter heading the first game. Fellow sophomores Aaron Pankratz and Kellen Pagel have been in contention with Schilz during camp.
The Falcons understand their pass-catching totals will ultimately depend on the effectiveness of their quarterback.
"Because we're trying to decide on a new quarterback the timing is certainly not there the way it was a year ago and that's why we need the work," Clawson said. "Physically, can these [receivers] play football? Absolutely.
"Is the passing game as precise? Is the timing where we need it to be to win football games? Right now, today, no."
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