With less than two months until the Panthers begin their season at home against FCS Long Island, here’s our look at the wide receiver room in our position-by-position preview of the 2021 FIU football team.
After the JJ Holloman experiment failed to get off the ground in 2020, the Panthers will return to a receiver by committee in 2021 — but that might not be a bad thing. 2019’s leading receiver in Shemar Thornton returns following a season-ending injury before last year’s fall camp and two transfers will look to be high-impact performers in this year’s offense.
Behind that group is a litany of young receivers looking to crack the rotation. Let’s take a look at the group as they enter the fall.
All stats listed are for the 2020 season. Projected starter(s) are in bold. Class year reflects NCAA eligibility rules for the 2021 season.
Bryce Singleton (R-Jr.) - 5-10, 193, 14 receptions for 150 yards and one touchdown in 2020
Shemar Thornton (Sr.) - 5-11, 182, 51 receptions for 668 yards and five touchdowns in 2019 - missed last season
Caleb Lynum (R-Soph) - 6-2, 215, zero statistics
Jordan Underwood (R-Soph) - 6-0, 180, zero statistics
Carson Kaleo (R-Jr.) - 5-9, 180, zero statistics
Nate Jefferson (R-Fr.) 5-11, 170, six receptions for 68 yards and one touchdown
Kris Mitchell (R-Fr.) 6-1, 175, four receptions for 39 yards
Teddy Richardson (Fr.) 5-11, 185, did not play in 2020 (injury)
Tyrese Chambers (Soph) - 6-1, 190, 50 receptions for 811 yards and eight touchdowns (At Sacred Heart)
Randall St. Felix (R-Jr.) - 6-3, 205, 70 receptions for 1,090 yards and seven touchdowns (At South Florida
Artez Hooker (Fr.) - 5-9, 175, Three-star recruit, Lakewood HS (St. Petersburg, FL)
Jay Barry Jr. (Fr.) - 6-2, 185, Three-star recruit, Fairview HS (Boulder, CO)
Dean Patterson (R-Fr.) - 6-2, 200. Redshirted (At D-II Findlay)
Guy McCarthy (Fr.) - 6-0, 175, Zero appearances (At Florida Atlantic)
Ross Fournet (Fr.) - 5-9, 170, Walk-on
Cameron Overton (R-Fr.) 6-3, 180, Zero appearances (At Western Illinois)
Khalil Overton (R-Fr) 6-4, 190, Zero appearances (At Western Illinois)
Heading into Fall: Much was made of former Georgia wideout Jeremiah Holloman’s arrival at FIU before the 2019 season. After a season on the scout team, Holloman was the number-one wideout for the Panthers in 2020. Whether or not the quarterback situation played a factor, Holloman’s one season in Miami was largely a disappointment. Entering 2021, the receiver room resembles the groups that FIU fielded in 2018 and 2019 — a group that was largely receiver-by-committee but was more than effective on the field.
The return of Shemar Thornton will undoubtedly give the room an additional veteran presence and a very capable talent. While he had struggled with consistency in 2019 (as did the whole team), Thornton showed enough to state affirmatively that he can be a number-one receiver in Conference USA.
Redshirt junior Bryce Singleton has been snake-bitten by injuries during his collegiate career. After an excellent true freshman season that saw him be named to the C-USA All-Freshman Team, the South Carolina native struggled with hamstring and groin injuries in 2018 and missed all of 2019. He led the team in grabs last season (14) and should benefit from an entire season as a starter.
Redshirt freshmen Nate Jefferson and Kris Mitchell enter 2021 with their best opportunity to break out of the pack and make their first real impact as collegiate receivers. Jefferson assumed the slot receiver role in 2020, playing over 97% of his snaps on the field as the Y receiver. The 5-11, 175-pounder has elite speed and athleticism to cause mismatches against opposing nickel defensive backs. Mitchell saw just under 100 snaps as the fourth receiver last season. The former three-star recruit looked impressive in the spring and hauled in four grabs during the spring game split out wide.
Quarterback-turned-receiver Caleb Lynum should also benefit from a full offseason — his first as a wideout. At 6-2 and 220 pounds, Lynum provides a much-needed sizable target among a receiver group that’s on the smaller side, relatively speaking. He was clocked in the high 4.4’s coming out of high school in the 40-yard-dash and his speed will help give Panther quarterbacks an option that can stretch the defense.
Transfers Randall St. Felix and Tyrese Chambers give FIU two high-caliber wideouts who have the potential to emerge as top C-USA talents. St. Felix was an All-AAC freshman performer in 2018 at USF, hauling in 33 receptions for 679 yards and four scores, but tallied a combined 37 receptions in his last two seasons as a Bull. Chambers began his career at FCS Sacred Heart and was an All-American at the Subdivision level. The 6-1, 185-pound Chambers has drawn rave reviews from Butch Davis after arriving in the spring and figures to see immediate time.
Richardson, Hooker and Barry Jr. are all three-star talents who will be best served by a season of development.
Summary: Thornton and Singleton are veterans who both have something to prove. Entering 2020, Thornton appeared prime to take the next step in his game before the injury, while Singleton is a highly talented player who has stayed the course despite battling injuries. If Lynum can continue to grow at the position, he will have a chance to earn playing time, competing with Jefferson and Mitchell. The wildcards are Chambers and St. Felix. Davis, not known for being effusive with praise of unproven players, has been complimentary of Chambers' work ethic during his short time in Miami. St. Felix has performed at a high level in the American. A return home to Dade County and a fresh start could propel the former three-star prospect to the form he had as a freshman.
Final Grade: B- The factor hampering this group isn’t talent — it’s lack of experience and recent production. Chambers is still making a jump in levels, Thornton’s recovery from last year’s injury, Singelton’s ability to stay healthy and St. Felix’s dip in output of the past two seasons all provide question marks. However, at their best — and a stable quarterback situation — the Panthers’ receiving corps may end up being a major strength in 2021.