Writer's note: This is the fourth installment of a 10-part series breaking down Marshall's 2019 football team by position before the Thundering Herd reports to preseason camp on Aug. 1. This story will focus on Marshall's wide receivers.
HUNTINGTON - In each of the last two seasons, one thing was certain, regardless of what quarterback led Marshall's passing attack.
No matter who was making the throw, he knew who his go-to wide receiver was: Tyre Brady.
That certainty is gone in 2019 after Brady exhausted his eligibility and moved on to the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars. And gone with it is a player who caught 133 passes for 1,944 yards and 17 touchdowns in two seasons with the Thundering Herd.
Those numbers are not easy to replace for wide receivers coach Dallas Baker.
While the loss of Brady (71 catches, 1,002 yards, 9 TDs) and slot receiver Marcel Williams (24 catches, 383 yards, TD) are tough to overcome, the cupboard is not bare for the Herd receiving corps entering the 2019 season.
Obi Obialo proved himself to be a strong target last season, finishing behind Brady as the second-leading receiver on the team with 42 catches for 505 yards and four touchdowns. Obialo leads a returning group that also features veteran Willie Johnson and Artie Henry, who caught 17 passes for 143 yards and two scores in his first year out of junior college.
Those three give a solid nucleus of experience to the receiver room, which is a good base for a bevy of unproven talents who will look to make their mark in the fall.
One player who shined throughout spring and has the coaching staff excited is Talik Keaton, a 6-foot-1, 180-pound target from Sarasota, Florida. Keaton displayed an ability to gain separation while also showing off strong hands in traffic, which made him one of the spring standouts. Another player who has shown flashes in camp, but is looking to become more consistent is Naquan Renalds, who made a name in the 2018 preseason and was expected to be the heir apparent to Brady's spot once Brady graduated.
Broc Thompson is another true freshman that shined in spring after enrolling early. The 6-1, 160-pound receiver from Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis, Indiana, took the top off the defense on several occasions, including when he hauled in a long touchdown reception during the Green-White Game, capping an impressive start with the Herd.
There are several wide receivers who will be taking the field with Marshall for the first time when camp opens, which means competition will be rampant to earn a spot in the depth chart. University of Kentucky graduate transfer Tavin Richardson headlines the group while fellow graduate transfer Joey Fields, Jr., of Central Connecticut State is also one to watch.
Corey Gammage, a Class of 2018 signee, sat out as an academic non-qualifier last season, but is a highly-touted receiver who could make noise early in camp. In-state product Amir Richardson from University High in Morgantown was a late commitment just before December's early signing day.
The charge for Baker is to find the right mix of receivers to complement quarterback Isaiah Green, who is looking to improve on a freshman campaign that saw him as the Conference USA Co-Freshman of the Year. It will be no easy fix as Marshall lost nearly 100 catches, 1,400 yards and 10 touchdowns from its two graduated seniors last season.
The good news for the group is that Marshall's rushing attack and tight end group should forge favorable matchups for the receivers with teams looking to take away Marshall's biggest strengths. The Herd needs to develop at least one more consistent deep threat to get a majority of repetitions while also building its depth on the second and third tier at the receiver position.
In terms of game action, the receivers are the least experienced among position groupings on the offense, meaning there will be an emphasis on every snap as camp breaks.