Huskies start with blank slate at receiver
HOUGHTON – At the heart of Michigan Tech quarterback Tyler Scarlett’s school-record setting season last fall, there were five senior wide receivers and a three-year starter at tight end on the end of nearly every pass.
A speedster to stretch the defense? Check. A go-to guy capable of winning jump balls? Scarlett enjoyed that too. A tight end burning through linebackers and safeties? Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference defensive coordinators collectively fist-pumped after Bryan LaChapelle’s last game.
And now every single one of them is gone.
A total of 195 receptions, 2,650 yards and 27 touchdowns all must be replaced.
There is not a single receiver or tight end on the roster with a catch to his name in a Huskies uniform.
It is a big question, who will start on the outside, and one head coach Tom Kearly does not foresee a resolution to until at least late in fall camp.
“The ones, the twos, the traveling guys; that is all still to be decided in the fall,” Kearly said. “With six guys like that gone, that is a lot of talent you are losing, though I do not believe our talent level is dropping off. We just needed experience to go with that talent now.”
Making matters more difficult, the inclement weather has caused the cancellation of a handful of practices, and even the times Tech manages to take the field, the passing game has been hindered.
Thus, Scarlett and Kearly are still rather in the dark on who might establish themselves now that a surplus of reps are available.
“Weather has probably affected that position the most,” Kearly said. “It is such a timing thing, and the cold makes it tougher on the QB to throw 80-90 balls. If I am a receiver and the ball isn’t near me, I’m not going to catch it. So we still have to make progress there.”
As it stands right now, three wideouts have established at least a slight edge for playing time with a combination of experience and talent.
Brandon Cowie – who knows the offense up close as a former quarterback – Andrew Clark and Anthony Root have been taking the majority of the snaps in the “one-huddle” (starters by Kearly’s nomenclature) and will likely be the ones at the spring football game on the end of Scarlett’s passes.
Cowie enjoys an athletic advantage the Tech coaches want to exploit and Root and Clark are entering their third year in the program with a redshirt season under their belt.
“That decision-making process is far from being done,” Kearly said. “But those are the guys seeing the majority of the reps with the ones right now. We like what each of them has to bring.”
Another intriguing prospect Tech fans will get a glimpse of Saturday is junior college transfer Gabe Eppert, a 6-foot-3 Ishpeming native.
His height and leaping ability make him the ideal man for the “boundary” receiver Tech requires in their offense. He just needs experience with the Huskies system now.
“We like that outside receiver to be taller,” Kearly said. ” Someone who will matchup against corners and win one-on-one, the type of guys you throw fades to on the goal line. (Eppert) has that ability to separate.”
Freshmen David Walter, Jacob Mineau, Mike Schutt and Nathan Comar are all in the mix now too.
At the tight end position, the battle to replace LaChapelle – who Kearly stresses in typical coach-speak “cannot be replaced” – will come down to juniors Bob Fraker and Cal Reindl and sophomore Ian Wienke.
That battle too will be decided in fall camp.
“Just like the receivers, we are not ready to make a decision there,” Kearly said. “All three of those guys have pluses and they have minuses. We need to figure out a combination that brings the best out of them all.”