When taking a look at a team that throws the ball all over the field as much as the Tulsa Golden Hurricane, it can be incredibly difficult to judge the wide receivers. Sometimes, the quantity of catches and opportunities can overshadow actual ability.
That is not the case with Tulsa. 2015 senior receiver Keyarris Garrett was a player that just jumped off the field as a man among boys. While I am not ready to declare one of the wideouts the new Garrett, Tulsa does have one of the most explosive wide receiver duos heading into the 2016 season in seniors Keevan Lucas and Josh Atkinson.
Keevan Lucas, a senior out of Abiline, Texas, seems like he has been with the program forever. He was part of the 2013 recruiting class, enrolling early and participating in spring drills. Spending the spring semester with Tulsa paid off for Lucas as he earned significant playing time that included five starts and 12 games played. As a true freshman, Lucas finished second on the team with 32 catches for 442 yards and a touchdown.
As a sophomore, the 5-10 receiver was even more impressive with 101 catches for 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns. He was named to the Second Team All-AAC squad for his play. Lucas ended the season ranked first in the American Athletic Conference for receiving TDs, second for receiving yards, receiving yards per game, receptions per game and all-purpose yards. He has that ability to find the end zone that cannot be taught.
Heading into his junior season, Lucas was named to the 2015 Biletnikoff Award Watch List as well as multiple preseason all-conference honors. For the first time in his career, Lucas had to battle injuries and was only able to participate in four games. In those four games, Lucas was targeted 41 times with 26 catches for 409 yards and five touchdowns. Overall, Lucas has 159 catches for 2,070 yards and 17 touchdowns in 28 games played for the Golden Hurricane.
Lucas will again be the player to watch at wide receiver, but there is another rising senior that will get his fair share of attention as well.
Carrollton, Texas native Josh Atkinson was the biggest surprise of the 2015 season for Tulsa. He came into the season with 48 catches for 525 yards and a touchdown for his career. He showed signs of progress with 35 catches in 2014, but no one knew what to expect out of him in 2015. After making no catches in the season opener, the 6-2 receiver proceeded to put together five straight 100+ yard receiving games.
As it was clear that Lucas would not be back in 2015, Atkinson stepped in as a more than capable second receiver with 108 targets and a team-high 70.4% catch rate. He ended the season in style with 11 catches for 139 yards and a score in the Independence Bowl as well as 76 catches for 1,071 yards and five touchdowns.= on the year.
The two are stat machines and could set school records for the explosive Tulsa offense. If they are able to play up to their capabilities, the Golden Hurricane duo could end up with a combined 200 catches, 2,300 yards receiving, and 15 or more touchdowns.
The importance of Lucas coming back healthy in 2015 cannot be understated as rising sophomore Justin Hobbs (32/551/2TD) is the only other returning player with significant experience on the FBS level. The post-spring depth chart is clear cut with Hobbs and Atkinson on the outside and Lucas returning to his familiar role as an inside receiver. Hobbs taking another step forward with 50+ catches could turn this duo into a frightening three-headed monster.
Reserve Brodrick Umblance has been moved back and forth from offense to defense and back throughout his career. Bishop Louie was unable to find the form shown in 2014 when he caught 23 passed for 274 yards and a score. He was limited to two catches in 2015. Tulsa native Nigel Carter has only five catches during his first two seasons.
The rest of the roster consists of redshirt freshmen Jarion Anderson, Avery Gregg, David Snelling, as well as true freshmen Josh Stewart and Jordan Brown. The five freshmen are wildcards that could see playing time, but any positive play will be icing on the cake for the offense.
With quarterback Dane Evans back for his senior year after throwing for 8,332 yards so far, expect him to rely upon one of the best receiver duos in all of college football and destroy multiple school records this fall.