Chuck Landon: MU looking to fill gap at wideout for 2014 season
Bill Legg used several clouds of smoke and enough mirrors to fill a funhouse last football season.
How else can anyone explain the success of Marshall's passing game in 2013?
The Herd's inventive offensive coordinator engineered the No. 20 nationally ranked passing attack, which produced 4,122 yards and 42 touchdowns, despite not having legitimate threats at the outside receiver spots.
The Herd's entire passing game was predicated on slot receiver Tommy Shuler and tight end Gator Hoskins. The outside receivers? They were decoys mostly.
That's why Shuler finished with 106 catches for 1,165 yards and 10 touchdowns while Hoskins had 50 receptions for 831 yards and 15 TDs. Meanwhile, the outside receivers -- Devon Smith and Craig Wilkins -- contributed 39 and 32 catches respectively.
Think it was a coincidence that opposing defenses began bracketing Shuler and Hoskins while playing man-to-man on MU's outside receivers?
It's also no coincidence that outside receiver has been a point of emphasis in Marshall's recruiting for the Class of 2014. That's why as many as seven new wideouts could be joining the program either as incoming recruits or academic non-qualifiers becoming eligible.
The duo of Angelo Jean-Louis, 6-foot, 185-pound speedster who once committed to Miami (Fla.) as the No. 8 receiver in the nation, and Deontay McManus, 6-2, 220-pound physical specimen who conjures thoughts of NFL star Anquan Boldin, already are eligible. Rodney Allen, 5-10, 154 pounds, who impressed Legg with his speed in preseason camp, is expected to be eligible after the spring semester.
Joining that trio could be four recruits that have given Marshall verbal commitments heading into national signing day on Feb. 5.
Here's a look at the quartet:
Emanuel Beal: The 6-1, 210-pound Georgia native has blistering 4.4 speed and a backpack full of big-time scholarship offers.
As a junior at Wheeler High School in Marietta, Ga., Beal had 43 catches for 855 yards (19.9 yards reception) and seven touchdowns. Then, he transferred to powerhouse Hillgrove in Powder Springs, Ga., for his senior year.
Alex Cason: The 6-2, 182-pound native of Valdosta, Ga., has 4.52 speed. He was offered by Charlotte, Cincinnati, Middle Tennessee, Western Kentucky and South Alabama. In the annual "Winnersville Classic" between Valdosta High School and cross-town rival Lowndes, Cason caught a season-high 11 passes for 135 yards.
Keion Davis: The 6-0, 185-pound former running back could end up in the slot. At Hughes High School in Fairburn, Ga., Davis rushed for 1,652 yards on 213 carries last season. He had career totals of 2,720 yards on 410 rushes with 36 touchdowns. But he also caught five touchdown passes.
"Marshall put their neck on the line for me early," Davis told NeighborNewspapers.com. "They realized my talent early on, so I might as well return the favor."
Reese Wooten: The spindly 6-2, 170-pounder with 4.39 speed draws comparisons to former Herd great Darius Watts. His size, speed and even his home state -- Georgia -- are similar.
Wooten was the first commitment in Marshall's 2014 recruiting class.
Add rising sophomore Justin Hunt to this list and it's easy to see Marshall's outside receiver corps is going to have a much different look for the 2014 season.
Smoke? Mirrors? Decoys?
Legg shouldn't need those tricks next season.
Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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