The loss of so many bodies expected to contribute at wide receiver this season for FAU is well documented. Jovon Durante entered the draft early, becoming one of 30 underclassmen who went undrafted. Auburn transfer Kyle Davis dropped out of school and signed with the CFL. Desean Holmes and DeAndre McNeal transferred.
The Owls hoped JUCO signee Adrian Bryant would make an instant impact, but he left campus weeks after arriving, never even making it to spring ball.
Losses of a more temporary nature continued throughout spring.
Starting wide receiver Pico Harrison didn’t participate in any of the four spring scrimmages. The other starting wideout, John Mitchell, missed the final scrimmage with an undisclosed injury. Little-used redshirt senior slot receiver Ladante Harris missed the final two scrimmages. Even Jeffty Joseph, one of the surprises of the first spring practice, spent the final scrimmage on the sidelines.
That left junior slot receiver Willie Wright as the only wide receiver recognizable to casual FAU fans. Redshirt sophomore Jordan Merrell and redshirt senior James Brunson, who’ve combined for three career catches, were the only other scholarship receivers to participate in the final scrimmage.
Spring Grade: INC. Being generous here because of the injuries because this easily could have been an F. Too many drops. Too little production. The lack of accomplishment at wide receiver made it difficult to gauge the development of Justin Agner and Nick Tronti at quarterback. “Especially our bigger receivers seemed to be getting hurt a lot,” coach Lane Kiffin said. “They’re having a lot of small targets to work with.” Poor wide receiver play made it difficult to evaluate the cornerbacks. Were the defenders that good or were the receivers simply not up to par?
Spring Standout: Jordan Merrell. The two factors that plagued Mitchell throughout his career, injuries and inconsistency, again hampered his progress. Merrell, meanwhile, remained consistent throughout spring, showing he could be a possession receiver while delivering some big plays. He didn’t show much during his first two seasons at FAU, but Merrell positioned himself to make an impact in 2019.
Spring Disappointment: Willie Wright. The junior took a step backward in 2018 after a highly effective freshman season. Sophomore slump? Maybe. But Wright rarely showed the explosiveness that made his freshman year so productive. His jet sweeps most often lost yardage this spring, and Wright didn’t show as much elusiveness after the catch. FAU desperately needs the Wright of 2017 to reappear at fall camp.
Spring Surprise: The scrimmages had to be seen to appreciate the sparseness of FAU’s spring wide receiver’s unit. Even with everyone healthy, FAU entered spring with only six scholarship receivers and concluded spring with more walk-ons than scholarship receivers. FAU signed at least six potential wide receivers in February, a few of whom still have to qualify academically. Some of those players will need to produce immediately or it won’t matter who wins the starting quarterback battle.