Entering last season, Vanderbilt’s wide receiver room was a big question mark. Will Sheppard returned, but the Commodores’ other three primary pass catchers were all gone.
This season? Vanderbilt’s top four pass catchers at the position last season are all returning. And, the Commodores add three promising freshmen to the group. This is a group with some proven guys as well as some good depth. (The depth might be important, by the way — we’ll get to the tight end room later this week, but that position might have issues this season. The good news: Vanderbilt could plausibly just run four-WR sets instead.)
Will Sheppard, senior: Last season was a breakout campaign for Sheppard: 60 receptions, 776 yards, and nine touchdowns. The touchdown number could stand to come up; otherwise, this was the best season for a Vanderbilt receiver since Kalija Lipscomb in 2018. How good can Sheppard be in 2023? Honestly, the biggest question is whether he’ll get fewer targets — because other receivers could step up their game.
Quincy Skinner Jr., junior: One of the highest-rated recruits in Vanderbilt’s 2021 class, Skinner needed a year before he was ready to make an impact with 17 catches for 238 yards and two touchdowns. The highlight of his season was a fourth-down catch to set up the game-winning touchdown in the Kentucky game. At 6’2” and 205 pounds, he has all the physical tools to be an excellent complement to Sheppard.
Jayden McGowan, sophomore: Overlooked because of his size (5’8”/181), McGowan came in as a true freshman with track speed (he won the state championship in the 100 meters in South Carolina) and made an immediate impact with 44 catches for 453 yards and three touchdowns. He probably has less upside than Skinner, but he’s already shown he can make an impact at the slot position.
Gamarion Carter, redshirt sophomore: Carter only caught six passes last season — but one of them was an 80-yard touchdown against Missouri. (Take that away, and he caught five passes for 47 yards.) At 6’2” and 190 pounds, he’s another guy with good size for the position.
Ezra McAllister, redshirt sophomore: McAllister has appeared in one game in two seasons at Vanderbilt. Entering this season, the depth chart ahead of him looks like it’s going to be a lot to overcome — and there’s talent coming in behind him. There’s still hope for an impact, but he might be more of a special-teams player at this point.
Daveon Walker, redshirt freshman: The other true freshman receiver in Vanderbilt’s 2022 class didn’t appear in a game last season. He might find his way onto the field if Vanderbilt starts playing more receiver-heavy sets.
London Humphreys, freshman: The son of a former Vanderbilt track coach, Humphreys started his high school career as a track star — and then put up a couple of 1000-yard seasons during his junior and senior years. He’s 6’3” and has excellent speed; the receiver room is plenty deep, but my guess is he’ll see the field sooner rather than later.
Junior Sherrill, freshman: Another local product, Sherrill put up 1362 yards and 24 touchdowns as a senior at Lipscomb Academy — and then decided to stay close to home rather than follow his high school coach to UAB. Again, the depth chart is going to be tough to crack, but the talent is there.
Duran Parish, freshman: A two-sport star in Biloxi, Mississippi, Parish was an all-state player... in basketball. He held scholarship offers in both sports from Mississippi State; instead, he’ll line up at receiver at Vanderbilt. Would Jerry Stackhouse be interested in letting him play both sports?