It’s never easy to replace reliable, productive wide receivers in college football—especially when they average over 20 yards per catch and a touchdown every six receptions—but replacing talent is the name of the game, as these gifted athletes are only building their resume for the next level while wearing your school’s colors.
For Rutgers, the issue of replacing top talent at the wide receiver position has been raised almost on an annual basis in recent years.
It began after the 2005 season, when Tres Moses had a record-breaking year. From 2006 through 2008, Rutgers’ receiving corps was led by Kenny Britt, with Tiquan Underwood and Tim Brown in supporting roles.
After Britt and Underwood left (record-breakers themselves, and unquestionably the most productive duo of receivers ever to don Scarlet) the team had gaping holes to fill at the position.
Tim Brown, having three years of experience, emerged as the Scarlet Knights' No. 1 option in 2009, and put up those exact numbers mentioned above (Brown also broke several records set by those mentioned above), but the No. 2 slot was still vacant, and the coaching staff was taking applications.
The application process didn’t last long, however, as true freshman (and projected safety) Mohammed Sanu grabbed it and became just as dangerous and productive as Brown.
Well, it’s a different year, but the Scarlet Knights are faced with a familiar issue. The No. 1 option is clearly Sanu, but who’s lining up on the other side?
It wouldn’t be a shock to see one of Rutgers’ prized receiving recruits from the 2010 recruiting class—such as four-star rated Brandon Coleman (6'6'', 215 pounds) or three-star rated Jeremy Deering (6'2'', 205 pounds)—come in and contend for playing time immediately.
It’s what Kenny Britt and Tim Brown did as freshman in 2006, and what Mohammed Sanu did in 2009.
But red shirt sophomore Tim Wright (6'4'', 215 pounds) and sophomore Mark Harrison (6'3'', 230 pounds) are taking advantage of their current situation and stating their case on the practice field this spring.
Tim Wright, once a highly-regarded a recruit himself, rarely saw the playing field in 2009, and failed to record a catch, but his size and raw ability (which is almost a carbon copy of Britt’s) always made fans wonder why he has yet to make an impact.
Could he be hearing the footsteps of other up-and-comers already on the roster or from the incoming recruiting class?
Regardless, Wright is making his coaches notice him .
When asked who the most improved players are this spring, Coach Greg Schiano responded, “Tim’s a guy who’s making strides. He’s just playing football better. Everything he’s doing, he’s raised his game.”
Mark Harrison saw a fare share of snaps during the 2009 season, hauling in five catches for 83 yards and a touchdown, and would have likely seen more if not for the head injury he suffered.
Harrison’s frame at 6'3'' and 230 pounds is one to make defensive backs shiver, and he’s even drawn physical comparisons to a certain NFL receiver .
Maybe the comparisons should go ever further, after this quip made after the first day of spring practice:
"You just got a little taste last year," said Harrison. “There's more to come."
So far, so good for Wright and Harrison, who are both trying to position themselves as the second best option for sophomore quarterback Tom Savage.
Can we expect either of them step in like Kenny Britt, Tim Brown, and Mohammed Sanu did before them?
It won’t be easy to replace that sort of production, but then again, no one knew what those three could accomplish before they stepped on the field.