14 16 (Josh Grady just moved back to WR. He'll be covered in the QB breakdown) players on the depth chart, no position is deeper for the Vanderbilt Commodores than wide receiver. That depth with be key in 2014 now that the 'Dores have to replace 74 percent of their aerial output from their nine-win 2013 campaign.
That production came from just two players - two of the best receivers Vandy has lined up in the modern era. Jordan Matthews parlayed his prodigious combination of size and skill into several SEC records, All-American honors, and a second-round draft slot with the Philadelphia Eagles. Jonathan Krause didn't earn the accolades that his teammate did, but his 714 yards (in 11 games) gave the team a veritable deep threat and keep this team's offense alive as the season wore on. He's currently in training camp with the Cleveland Browns.
A cache of young, talented Commodores will work to fill the void they left behind. Four-star recruits like Jordan Cunningham, DeAndre Woods, and Trent Sherfield are competing for playing time at a position loaded with playmakers. Redshirt freshmen C.J. Duncan and Gerald Perry have emerged as dangerous scoring threats every time they touch the ball. True freshmen like Rashad Canty and Caleb Scott have added a pair of polished pass-catchers to the team's ranks. And that's just half of the players Vandy has listed at WR for 2014.
So let's break down those athletes one-by-one as we continue our rolling preview of the upcoming Vanderbilt Football season. Here are Vandy's wide receivers, listed in some vague order of who may have the biggest impact for this team when SEC play rolls around.
Jordan Cunningham (6'1", 175 lbs): Cunningham was ranked as the 107th-best recruit in the 2013 national class by ESPN, making him the most-lauded player the 'Dores have ever landed. He showed flashes of the playmaking ability that made him a high school star as a true freshman, but most of those contributions came in a seven catch, 67-yard performance against an overmatched Austin Peay team.
It's tough to fault Cunningham for not making a greater impact when he had two stalwarts in front of him on the depth chart and an uncertain situation behind center. He's got great body control that allows him to be effective both over the middle and down the sideline, and he should be able to fill Jordan Matthews's role as a do-everything wideout as he grows. Those are some huge shoes to fill, but Cunningham has the raw ability to make it happen.
C.J. Duncan (5'11", 195 lbs): Duncan is an under-the-radar athlete who has impressed coaches in his second year on campus and may be in line to earn a starting spot this fall. The redshirt freshman is a versatile player who manned every skill position for the 'Dores in his first year on campus before settling in at receiver. His lateral movement and field vision have helped him break plenty of big plays against the Commodore defense in practice. Derek Mason is hoping that those skills will translate against SEC opponents. His teammates have called him the most athletic guy on the roster, and having an explosive talent along the sidelines would help ease the pain of losing Jonathan Krause to graduation.
Gerald Perry (5'10", 165 lbs): Perry is the smallest receiver in the Vanderbilt stable, but like Duncan he has the quickness to be an effective slot receiver as a redshirt freshman. He's dynamic with the ball in his hands and has the ability to turn short passes into big gains thanks to his ability to make cuts and find holes in opposing defenses. He's not going to outmuscle any of the SEC's bigger cornerbacks, but he's a legitimate home run threat with good hands and top notch straight-line speed (4.4s 40-yard dash). Perry should get the chance to spice up the Commodore offense in 2014.
Kris Kentera (6'4", 220 lbs): Kentera has the size and athleticism to be a productive receiver - the biggest knock on him is whether or not he has the hands to succeed at the position. He struggled through some learning pains after moving from quarterback to a tight end/H-back role early in his Vanderbilt career. He's now in his fourth year with the program and it may be do-or-die in terms of becoming a reliable starter. Injuries haven't helped his cause, but if he can't emerge as a consistent red zone threat this fall then it may be time to stop expecting the Coloradoan to become an offensive threat as a Commodore.
Latevius Rayford (6'1", 192 lbs): Rayford added 17 pounds of muscle to prep for the 2014 season and will be one of the 'Dores biggest targets at wideout. That alone should earn him some looks once Vanderbilt marches into the red zone when September rolls around. He played sparingly in the early stages of the '13 season (two catches, 29 yards) before missing the final seven games of the year due to injury. He runs routes well, has good deep ball speed, and has the strength to make plays over the middle and rip down passes in traffic. That experience should also help him secure playing time, though his role may be usurped by more dynamic playmakers like Perry and Duncan.
DeAndre Woods (6'3", 215): Like Rayford and Kentera, Woods's size will give him an advantage when it comes to finding the field in scoring situations. The second-year player redshirted last season and missed several practices due to injury, including this year's spring game. As a result, he may have fallen behind his classmates on the depth chart despite his status as a former four-star recruit. Woods isn't a burner, but he's a physical player with grown man strength and the hands to accompany it. He can give Vanderbilt a dynamic possession receiver who can produce first downs in big situations if he stays healthy.
Trey Wilkins (5'11", 210): Wilkins snuck into game situations at wideout last fall and had a limited impact for the Commodores. The Harding University transfer had a pair of receptions and will have the opportunity to expand that role this fall. He's got a compact build that makes him look more like a tailback than a receiver, but he's also got solid hands and the strength to gut out extra yards after the catch. He should make some appearances at wideout for the 'Dores this fall.
Chandler Dorrell (6'0", 190 lbs): Dorrell, the son of offensive coordinator Karl Dorrell, has turned some heads in early practices after transferring to Vandy from Stanford. The quick-footed receiver has shown off the agility to handle work as a slot receiver and should also come into play on special teams this fall. He may not be able to work his way all the way into a starting role, but he'll have a chance to see the field in meaningful situations if he's able to keep his early-camp pace up throughout the season.
Curtis Graves (6'1", 185 lbs): Graves is an under-the-radar prospect who missed his entire senior season of high school but still found a spot on the Commodore roster last fall. He didn't play as a freshman but didn't redshirt, so the team may not have big plans for him. Still, he's got a solid frame at 6'1" and some stability could be the key to unlocking his potential at wideout. We may not see him in 2014, but the sophomore could make an impact for this team by the time he graduates.
Rashad Canty (6'3", 212 lbs): Canty has added 10 pounds to an already-big frame since graduating from high school and he uses that size to create mismatches when the ball is in the air. He was an under-the-radar prospect who could burn his redshirt early thanks to a well-rounded receiving game and his ability to contribute on special teams.
Caleb Scott (6'1", 180 lbs): Scott was an All-State receiver in Georgia who was extremely productive for a very good team. His recruitment heated up late in his senior season - garnering scholarship offers from Nebraska and Missouri - but he chose the Commodores thanks in part to the influence of Vandy All-American tight end Chuck Scott...who happens to be his father. Scott has solid hands, above average speed, and he runs routes well. He has a refined game that could help him find the field as a true freshman this fall.
Ronald Monroe (6'2", 185 lbs): Monroe is moving to wideout after making a name for himself as a dual-threat high school quarterback in Texas. He sees the field well and is able to identify holes in the defense in order to create first downs with his feet. That kind of playmaking ability should help him rack up yards after the catch, but he may need a redshirt year to help ease his transition to the new position.
Trent Sherfield (6'0", 185 lbs): Sherfield played safety and quarterback in high school but has transitioned to the other side of the ball for the Commodores. He has solid speed and was able to separate himself from defenders as a QB, but time will tell if he can apply those skills at wideout. Like Monroe, he may need a season to acclimate to the new position.
Alex Grecco had the luck of growing up in the greatest state in the nation (Rhode Island) and was an All-State athlete...in tennis. He's got a great story for a walk-on, but he's unlikely to see meaningful playing time this season. Nigel Walker walked on to the team last season after a solid high school career, but he will have plenty of work to do to raise himself up from the lower limits of the Vandy depth chart.