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Without Hudgins, Elon unveils new look passing attack
For the recent past, present and future of the Elon University football team’s receiving corps, today’s experiences should unfold with intrigue.
Terrell Hudgins, coming off a remarkable college career defined by staggering statistics and dumbfounding catches, will hope that his name is called somewhere during the final four rounds of the NFL Draft.
And by the conclusion of tonight’s spring game, Lance Camp, Sean Jeffcoat and company will have offered a first real glimpse of what’s to come as Elon’s receivers continue transitioning into life without Hudgins, the Phoenix’s former alpha dog of the unit.
“Everybody’s capable of making big plays,” Camp said. “So it’ll be real interesting to see how we play under pressure in a live game-like atmosphere, to see which guys are going to step up and come out ready, prepared and focused.”
Camp and Jeffcoat, a pair of rising seniors, are first in line to carry the torch.
They became somewhat proven commodities as Elon’s second and third downfield options last season, combining for 72 receptions, 951 yards and three touchdowns.
Of course, those numbers pale in comparison to Hudgins’ prodigious 2009 campaign, when he hauled in 123 catches for 1,633 yards and 16 scores while eclipsing several all-time Football Championship Subdivision records held by legendary Jerry Rice.
“Graduation equals opportunity,” Elon coach Pete Lembo said. “Our guys know that. And our guys know we’re going to continue to throw the football. That’s what we do. So now it’s just a question of who’s going to be the target of many of those throws.
“It’s been great competition throughout the spring and it’s been good to see some guys step up and make plays and start to mature. It’s a good mix and there are some younger guys that are in there pushing hard.”
Those up-and-comers include the detailed Jeremy Peterson and the speedy Darrius McQueen in the slot.
On the outside, Aaron Mellette, a raw athlete, has been groomed for two seasons as Elon’s next deep threat while Rasaun Rorie has been a pleasant surprise during spring practice sessions.
After one workout at Rhodes Stadium, Jeffcoat found himself raving at the potential — both collective and individual — possessed by the younger foursome of Peterson (a rising sophomore), McQueen (junior), Mellette (redshirt sophomore) and Rorie (sophomore).
“I think once they get an opportunity, they’re going to make the most of it,” Jeffcoat said. “It’s time to shine. We’re dangerous, but not a lot of people really know what we’ve got. They’ve seen hints of it. Now we really can show what it is.
“We’ve got a lot of personnel that we can put in. The defenses are going to be kind of on their heels.”
That’s perhaps a benefit obscured by the departure of Hudgins’ immense presence.
With its unquestioned go-to receiver now removed from the picture, Elon’s multiple formations and personnel groupings — hard-to-scheme calling cards of Lembo’s offenses — can take on even more varied looks.
“I believe it does make us more diverse and unique,” Camp said, “because you just can’t key in on one particular person. Obviously, on big money downs, we were going to T-Mobile. But this year, we don’t want to give defenses a chance to dictate who’s going to get the ball.”
Hudgins alone accounted for nearly 37 percent of Scott Riddle’s completions during the last three seasons.
That’s another angle of the post-Hudgins equation that could prove interesting to monitor in tonight’s game and beyond.
“I think what it’s forced Scott to do this spring is to not have that fail-safe, who might be over there making some plays that maybe on paper you’re not even supposed to make,” Lembo said. “It’s forced him to be more detailed in his progressions, in his reads, which in turn, I think, is making him a better player.”
By Adam Smith, Times-News