Last Season: With a ton of seniors graduating from the program last season, Louisville turned to a plethora of young, raw receivers to turn some production for the passing game. Jamari Staples, in spite of missing half the season due to injury, led all receivers with 638 yards and three touchdowns, while James Quick led the team with five touchdowns.
While Staples and Quick were the key contributors for Louisville at that position, they also had a ton of true freshmen contribute right away. Devante Peete, Jaylen Smith and Traveon Samuel all saw major playing time and delivered on touchdowns for the team. It should be of note that wide receiver coach Lamar Thomas left in the offseason to coach at Kentucky.
This Season: If the tight end position is coupled in this group, this is a very young, yet promising group for Louisville. How much will they produce will depend on how much Lamar Jackson has improved as a pure passer, but many guys have the potential to play in the NFL. This may especially come to fruition with new wide receiver coach and co-offensive coordinator Lonnie Galloway. Galloway coached at WVU the last three seasons (in addition to 2008-10), and has turned multiple draft picks at the position, including 2015 first-rounder Kevin White, Tavon Austin and Mario Alford.
Jamari Staples enters this season as a solid #1 receiver, and in spite of missing the first four games in 2015, ended up leading the team in yards (638). Staples will lead a group that is very long and has great size for the position, but that’s certainly not the defining trait of the UAB transfer. Staples had monstrous outings against Wake Forest (10 rec., 133 yards, two TDs) and Pittsburgh (9 rec., 194 yards, TD), perhaps the best of any receiver last season. Additionally, Staples had some advanced receiver statistics that made him very comparable with top receivers from last season, including zero drops.
Along with Staples, former Trinity High School stars James Quick and Reggie Bonnafon were listed as starters in the media guide. Quick is now a senior who has had spectacular play, but has lacked consistent, steady outings. The senior had a three touchdown performance at Florida State last season, and led the team in receptions (37) and touchdowns (five) as he transitioned to a slot receiver role. Entering his third season as a starter, Quick is now the seasoned veteran in Louisville’s still raw receiving corps.
Bonnafon has a lot of potential as a born-again wide receiver for Louisville, and he might be in for a breakout season nationally with a full offseason to work as a wide receiver. Of course, with Bonnafon’s experience as a quarterback, you might see him execute an end-around pass, or it could be possible that Bonnafon will be used again as a running back. Only time will tell, but most fans are excited about Bonnafon’s potential in the offense with his athleticism.
Depth, though, will be the key for this position in 2016. The freshman trio of Jaylen Smith, Devonte Peete and Traveon Samuel will all likely see significant playing time again in four, five receiver sets. Jaylen Smith saw a lot of playing time last season as a starter, and showed a lot of potential as a reliable vertical threat. Traveon Samuel is an exciting player that has great top-end speed, and can be used in kick returns, sweeps or an occasional bubble screen. Peete is a huge target at 6’6″, and someone who showed excellent footwork and ability to high point the football at times last season. JaQuay Savage and Javonte Bagley may also see the field at some point in some capacity.
Louisville has a lot of true freshmen that may not even see playing time, but may eventually work their way into contributing this season. Dez Fitzpatrick was one of the top recruits in Louisville’s class, and has shown some spectacular route running and athleticism in the summer camp. Seth Dawkins ea some praise with Bobby Petrino in last week’s kickoff luncheon, and could end up seeing some time as a returner for Louisville this season.