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Northern Colorado hopes there’s success in receiver depth
UNC will rely on many to replace Davis
It’s not going to take just one wide receiver catching a lot of balls to make the University of Northern Colorado offense work this fall.
It will take a plethora of them.
So even though the Bears lost Jace Davis, the leading receiver in 2010, because of academic ineligibility, they are hoping there is power in numbers to make up for the loss.
Last year, Davis was named first-team all-Big Sky Conference after catching 53 passes for 992 yards and seven touchdowns, more than 400 yards more than second-leading receiver Patrick Walker.
However, this year with the new no-huddle offense coach Earnest Collins is installing, it is going to take production from several receivers to make it work.
UNC running backs coach Keith Grable said the presence of more four wide receiver alignments makes the offense different than the past. So depth is going to be important.
“We are we are playing fast, so we are going to use more receivers,” Grable said. “We have got good depth, but the next guy has got to be ready. He has got to know his assignment and be ready to go.”
The good news is Grable has six returning receivers as well as six newcomers that will add to the mix and give the Bears the depth they need to run the offense.
Now he needs them to produce like Davis did last season.
“He was a big production guy for us, so it’s a big loss,” Grable said. “It’s a bad thing, but then again it opens up an opportunity for somebody else. You hate to see him not playing for us right now, but you have got to get the next guy ready and he has got to be ready to compete and do the same type of things Jace did.”
UNC believes it has several guys that can step up, including Walker, who has caught more passes (91) for more yards (1,185) then anyone on the team the last two seasons.
The Bears are also counting on junior Dominic Gunn, who missed most of 2009 with a knee injury, but became a special teams all-conference selection a year ago as well as talented junior Chris Morris, senior Denzel Hutchings and redshirt freshman Marcell Peoples.
Walker believes he is ready to step up and help fill the void when the Bears lost Davis.
“I feel like it is not all on me, but as a senior I need to step up and be a leader and be an example,” Walker said. “But we definitely have guys that can step up like Chris Morris and Marcell Peoples. Those guys had a good spring, so I feel like those guys can step up and make a difference.”
So does Gunn, who loves the new offense because it gives many opportunities to all the receivers to touch the ball and make plays.
“We run different schemes and we have different concepts each side, so it is something new every day,” he said. “We learn new plays, and we get to run exciting routes. It is not the same fly or post. It is something different every day.”
Collins understands the loss of Davis will hurt, but he is confident with the guys he has to make plays and be productive.
“Pat is obviously that next guy that steps up and takes over,” Collins said. “And Dom (Gunn) is doing a good job. And I think Chris Morris can be special if we can just get that work ethic in him that he needs. We have got a good receiving corps. We have got some good young kids that can catch the ball, that can run with the ball. Jace would make us a lot better, but we are going to be great without him and when we get him back, it will just add to what we already have.”
UNC football notes
» PROTECTING HIS TURF: UNC coach Earnest Collins is making it quite clear to everyone it is his football field when practice is going on. Several kids who play soccer on the fields once practice is done tried to cross the field while the team was doing conditioning sprints at the end of practice. Collins made it clear to them in no uncertain terms to get off the field. Then he told his players “run over them if they get in the way.”
Needless to say, they didn’t.
» EXCUSED ABSENCE: Wide receiver Denzel Hutchings missed practice Saturday, but was excused by Collins as he returned home to deal with the shooting of a friend. No other details were available. Hutchings is expected back for today’s practice.
» BACK ON THE FIELD: UNC linebacker Aisea Vave returned to practice Saturday after rolling his left ankle in Friday’s practice. Vave has been working with the first unit at left outside linebacker.
» CONFIDENT IN HIS QUARTERBACKS: While Collins is not yet determined who his starting quarterback will be this season, he is confident whoever is selected will get the job done this season.
“We haven’t named the starter at quarterback yet, but we have got four of them that can play,” Collins said. “I really believe that with all my heart. And with (quarterbacks coach) John Boyer coaching them, I know they are going to be ready to go, any one of the four. So we are just waiting to see which one of them progresses to the top.”
UNC senior Dylan Orms was the starter a year ago, but is battling junior Matt Baca, sophomore Seth Lobato and walk-on sophomore Tim Tancik for the starting job.
» NEEDING TO STEP UP: Collins has said wide receiver Chris Morris can be special, but he needs a better day than he had Saturday. Morris dropped several passes and was stripped of the ball three times after what appeared to be big catches.
» PADDED UP: UNC worked out for the first time in shoulder pads (shells) since the start of fall camp Thursday. Collins said the Bears will work out in full pads first time Monday. The team is scheduled to begin two-a-days Tuesday.
By Matt Schuman, Greeley Tribune