SJSU Position Group Preview: WR & TE
Who will be making plays in the passing game for the Spartans this season?
There are 12 receivers and 4 tight ends on the current San Jose State roster. The majority of the receiving corps is returning from last season, including the top 5 players in receptions and yards. The Spartans will be divided into players who are trying to find a game day roster spot and players who are contending for playing time.
Striving to find a game day roster spot: This position group on paper has some talent as 5 receivers were rated as 3-star players. With substantial production returning from last season the players categorized in this list will have a hard time finding consistent playing time. Freshmen Steven Houston, Leki Nunn, and Antwaun Ayers will have to have an amazing fall camp to get into the receiver rotation. In addition, junior Ray Surry and sophomore Austin Liles may also find themselves as odd men out once the season begins. Out of them all, Austin Liles has the best chance of jumping from this list to the contending for playing time list as he participated in 9 games last season.
At tight end, freshman Gurdeep Chopra and Jackson Parks will also have a hard time getting reps at their position with both the backup and starter returning at the position.
Contending for playing time: The six players that will be contending for playing time at receiver all have had some playing time in the past. Thai Cottrell started the opening game last year but ended up not having a reception on the year as he contributed mostly on special teams as the punt returner. The remaining 5 receivers on this list were all 3-star recruits out of high school. After playing on special teams and as a safety in his first couple of seasons, senior Jeremy Kelly will be in the mix to try and get into the receiver rotation.
Junior Bailey Gaither started the season hot as he had 6 receptions for 100 yards, one touchdown blocked a punt but as the season went on his playing time started to dwindle. Gaither started in only 4 of the first 6 games and still ended up leading the team in TD receptions with 4 and had a 14.5 yards per reception rate. On the opposite end of the spectrum, sophomore Tre Walker played in 12 games and started 3 of them in the second half of the season. Playing in the slot, look for Walker to make even more of a contribution this upcoming season as he really started to make strides towards the end of the season.
Most likely the starter in the slot, sophomore JaQuan Blackwell returns after starting 7 games and finishing second in receiving yards. After starting every game last season, senior Tre Hartley returns with the most receptions and receiving yards of any Spartan on the roster. Hartley is an explosive player who can turn a minimal gain on a slant route into a big play. Additionally, Justin Holmes who is the biggest and most experienced receiver on the team will also return. Holmes is 6-2 220 and has played in 36 games and started 18 of them in his career. Hartley and Holmes will be counted on to not only make big plays but also be more consistent as Bill Conley has shown that Hartley’s catch rate was only 49%.
Josh Oliver and Billy Humphreys were the #1 and #2 TE last season and both return. This could be a big season for Oliver as he has the ability to be an All-Conference player. He is a versatile TE who can block and can also make plays in the passing game. At 6-5 250 Oliver is a big target who was second on the team in receptions a year ago. Sophomore Billy Humphreys returns for another season of backing up Oliver, but it looks like it his position to take once Oliver graduates after the upcoming season.