2010 Wide Receivers – Returning Players / Recruits

Before the end of the season-opener against Colorado State next September, senior wide receiver Scotty McKnight, who has 165 career catches, should own the all-time receptions record at Colorado, passing the 167 catches by Michael Westbrook. By the end of the season, McKnight should own the all-time receiving yards record as well (McKnight finished the 2009 season in 7th place in that category). McKnight already owns the school record for consecutive games with at least one catch (36). Overall, McKnight has been one of the most consistent and successful receivers in Colorado history.

But don’t look for Scotty McKnight to be on the cover of any 2010 college football preseason magazines.

McKnight’s productivity over the past three seasons has been obscured by the Buffs’ overall lack of success. Colorado is 14-23 over the past three seasons, and the total offense numbers have languished in the bottom half of the NCAA. The passing offense in 2009, though, did improve, jumping from 81st in 2008 to 45th last season. There were times during the year – especially after Tyler Hansen became the full time quarterback – when the passing game clicked.

What is there to look forward to for next fall … besides McKnight setting school standards in relative obscurity?

Markques Simas, who will be a junior next fall, came on late in 2009. After missing all of 2008 due to academic ineligibility, and the first two games of 2009 on a team suspension, Simas had only 12 catches through the first eight games. Then, in the last four games. Simas had three 100-yard games, with his 31 catches over that span the most in a four game stretch in school history (Charles E. Johnson, in 1992, and Derek McCoy, in 2003, each had 30 catches over four games). Simas finished the year second on the team to McKnight in both catches (43) and yards (585).

After McKnight and Simas, though, it was a poor year for Colorado wide receivers. Consider yourself a devout Buff fan if you can name the next wideout next in line on the 2009 CU receiving list …

… go ahead. Take a guess …

Excluding tight ends (Riar Geer and Patrick Devenny were third and fifth on the list) and a third-down running back, Demetrius Sumler (4th), there is little left from which to choose.

The next wide receiver on the list, with 13 catches for 136 yards, is junior-to-be Jason Espinoza. You can certainly be forgiven if you do not remember’s Espinoza’s contributions, as all 13 of his catches came in the first three games of the season, with 109 of his 136 total yards coming against Toledo in game two.

There are a number of wide receivers who failed to live up to expectations in 2009, but will be back on the roster next fall. Remember last July and August? The names “Simmons” and “Jefferson” were on everyone’s lips. Junior college transfer Andre Simmons, once he officially qualified, was welcomed with open arms, as Simmons was supposed to bring an immediate infusion of talent and speed. Once the season began, though, Simmons disappeared. Simmons did have a 44-yard reception against Colorado State, but had only one catch, for three yards, the remainder of the season. True freshman Will Jefferson caused a stir when he signed late – just two days before camp – as he quickly moved up the depth chart. Jefferson was the only true freshmen to see action amongst the wide receivers, with six catches for 45 yards on the seaason.

There are no losses to graduation from the two-deep amongst the wide receivers. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

It says here that the wide receiver corps will be a pleasant surprise in 2010.

In his senior year, Scotty McKnight may be able to play the role he was born to play – the smart, possession receiver who gains eight yards on third-and-six. Along the way, he will become the all-time leading receiver in Colorado history. Simas, prepared to be a full-time starter, will become a fan favorite, and Colorado’ best bet to have a 1,000-yard receiving year since D.J. Hackett in 2003.

Amongst the remaining receivers, there is room for considerable optimism. I don’t know what happened to Andre Simmons in 2009, but there has to be something there – Simmons was the 6th-highest rated junior college wide receiver prospect a year ago. The trio from the 2009 recruiting class will also have the chance to produce. Will Jefferson will play as a sophomore, with red-shirt freshmen Terdema Ussery and Jarrod Darden given the chance to show they can play at the Big 12 level.

This is not to mention two other “recruits” who did not see playing time in 2009.

Kendrick Celestine played as a true freshman in 2007, collecting 11 receptions for 151 yards. He was being counted upon for increased production in 2008, when, after the first two games, he abruptly left the team to tend to family issues. Celestine decided he wanted to come back to the Buffs this past summer, and he has been working his way back to eligibility ever since. Celestine is not on scholarship at this time, paying his way to earn enough credits to regain his academic eligibility. Signs are that Celestine is on track to return to the Buffs in 2010.

UPDATE (12/28/09): Celestine left the Buffs three games into the 2008 season, citing personal reasons. Those “personal reasons” turned out to be the birth of his son back in Louisiana. Last summer, Celestine returned to Boulder, but not as a scholarship player. For Celestine to rejoin the team, he had to work his way back, not only physically, but in the classroom as well. Over the summer, Celestine received two B’s and a C+, collecting an A- and two B’s this fall – all while working full time and looking after his girlfriend and infant son. While his overall GPA of 1.97 is not good enough for eligibility just yet, it was good enough for the Colorado coaching staff. On Christmas Eve, Celestine received a call from Dan Hawkins, informing the 5’11”, 180-pound junior-to-be that he was back on scholarship. “It was very, very overwhelming,” Celestine told BuffStampede.com. “(Coach Hawkins) giving me a second chance is helping me to continue changing my life.”

Celestine has used up his red-shirt season, and will have two seasons of eligibility remaining. He will be able to practice this spring, but he will have to get his overall GPA up over 2.0 to play in 2010. Not a problem, says Celestine. “Like I told Coach Hawk, by the time I graduate I plan to have a GPA higher than 3.0; that is my personal goal.”

With the overall lack of production from the wide receiver corps in 2009, this is welcome news to Buff fans.

Congratulations – and welcome back – Kendrick!

Also sitting out the 2009 season was transfer Toney Clemons. The New Kensington, Pennsylvania, standout was considered the 10th-best wide receiver of the 2007 recruiting class. Clemons was recruited by a number of national powers, settling on a scholarship to play for Michigan. When the Wolverines changed coaches, Clemons became disillusioned. Last May, Clemons committed to Colorado, and has been on campus since last June. Clemons, at 6’3″, 203 pounds, should bring size and speed to the Colorado depth chart.

So, any need for any more receivers from the class of 2010?

Two wide receivers have already given their verbal commitment to play for Colorado. The first to say “yes” to the Buffs was Keenan Canty, a two-star prospect from Edna Carr Magnet School in New Orleans. Canty is 5’9″, 180 pounds, and has been timed at 4.74. Both of the recruiting services have rated Canty low, but he did have ten touchdowns and over 600 yards receiving this past season. Canty also has experience as a punt and kick returner. While noting Canty’s size will limit his opportunities, Rivals.com analyst Barton Simmons does allow “Canty is a quick athlete that has good explosiveness and acceleration”. Canty joins his quarterback, Munchie Legaux, on the Buffs’ list of 2010 recruits.

The other wide receiver recruit who has given a verbal commitment to Colorado is Donnie Duncan from Hamilton High school in Los Angeles, California. Duncan is a little taller than Canty, coming in at 6’0″, 185 pounds, with a 4.6 timing in the 40 yard dash. The services don’t agree on Duncan, with Rivals seeing him as a three-star player, rating him as the 65th-best “athlete”, while Scout sees Duncan as only a two-star prospect. For the Hamilton Yankees, Duncan scored 12 touchdowns this past fall, playing cornerback, wide receiver, and kick returner. “I liked everything about Colorado,” said Duncan of his official visit November 6th. “It wasn’t what I expected going into the trip. I felt real comfortable, real quick.” Duncan’s high school, just so you know, produced the likes of Warren Moon, Al Michaels, and Laila Ali …

Of the remaining wide receiver recruits out there, most of the highly rated prospects have given their commitments elsewhere. Colorado was in the running for the services of Kyle Slavin, who made his visit during the Missouri game. At the time, Slavin, a three-star wideout from Corona, California, was choosing between Colorado, Arizona, and Nebraska. Though he liked what he saw in Boulder – “I believe I could fit in with the system at Colorado and make plays” – Slavin has since chosen to go with Arizona.

Another three-star prospect who has taken his official visit to Boulder, and who is still considering the Buffs, is Kurt Davis, from Compton, California. Davis is an intriguing candidate, even though 2009 was his first year playing football. Prior to this year, Davis had focused on basketball because, well, he is 6’5″! “At first I didn’t know if I wanted to play football,” said Davis, “… but I figured it would be something fun to do during my senior year.” The experiment worked, as Davis had 30 receptions for over 600 yards and seven touchdowns. Davis was the teammate of four-star wide receiver Kevin Smith, who visited with Davis during the Missouri game, but who has since committed to play for Washington. Davis has offers to play basketball from Nevada, Pepperdine, and San Jose State, though his coach this past week reported that Utah, Northwestern, and Tennessee have picked up film on Davis.

The only other top-100 wide receiver recruit considering Colorado is Austin Hill, a three-star prospect from Corona, California. Hill, at 6’3″, 200, 4.5, is considered the 70th-best wide receiver by Scout; the 51st-best receiver by Rivals. Hill has not been to Boulder, but has taken official visits to Nebraska, Northwestern, and Colorado State. Hill also has offers from Utah, UNLV, Nevada, and both Arizona schools. Rivals believes Hill is leaning towards Arizona State, while Scout sees the battle coming down to Arizona and Nebraska.

[Update: Rivals is reporting that four-star wide receiver Davon Dunn also took an official visit to Boulder December 18th. Dunn, considered to be the 34th-best wide receiver in the nation, was listed as a having given a solid verbal commitment to California after his visit to Berkeley December 11th. Update – December 24th – Dunn switched his commitment to Fresno State.]

There is nothing certain before signing day, but it does not appear that wide receiver recruits will be the headliners in the 2010 class at Colorado. Last season, with the graduations of Patrick Williams and Cody Crawford, the defections of Kendrick Celestine and Josh Smith, and the overall lack of production from the passing game, wide receiver recruits were at a premium. This season, with all of the two-deep performers back, plus the additions of transfer Toney Clemons, red-shirt freshmen Terdema Ussery and Jarrod Darden – not to mention the return of Kendrick Celestine – recruiting for receivers is not at a premium. It appears that both of the known commitments for the 2010 class are kick return specialists in the making, with the best bet amongst those still out there coming with the hope of landing a 6’5″ basketball player who would be a tantalizing work-in-progress.

Whether the names are familiar – McKnight and Simas – or new – Canty and Duncan – one thing is certain: for Colorado to be successful in 2010, there needs to be an overall upgrade from the wide receiver position.

2 Replies to “’10 First Look: Wide Receivers”

  1. Speaking of good WR there is a good one in Pueblo just down the road. He leads the state with 1335 yards on 61 receptions. He averages just short of 22 yards per catch. His name is Josh Sandoval he is a good student he attends Pueblo East. It’s a 2 1/2 hours south of Boulder on I-25. Check it out,,,I grew up there…went to East and CU. Played football and graduated. Let me know if you want any help. 206.236.0207.

    Go Buffs

    Dick Taylor

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