Receiver makeover provides new targets for Rams' quarterbacks

Doug Pensinger

After finishing 85th in the country with 210 passing yards a game last season, a mix of experienced returning players and talented freshman look to improve on those numbers.

In 2012, the Rams struggled making plays in the passing game. A lack of true deep threats on the outside meant that smaller receivers had to play out of position and were not able to do what they do best; catch the ball quickly and use their elusiveness to get up field. Charles Lovett, Joe Hansely, and Thomas Coffman were all such receivers. Each of the three is 5' 10" or under with Lovett measuring in at 5' 8".

Lovett led the team in receiving yards with Hansley in fourth and tied for first in receiving touchdowns, while also returning punts for the Rams. Coffman was the primary kick returner, but only had eleven receptions on the season as he struggled with injuries. All three of these receivers have shown their playmaking ability, but were not able to consistently do so with more defensive focus on them.

McElwain saw the deficiencies in the Rams' wide receiver corps and immediately took to the road trying to recruit more talent and size to Fort Collins.

In the 2013 recruiting class, McElwain added four players taller than 6' 2". It is doubtful that each of these players will play, but the early reports from camp is that they have immediately helped to upgrade the group. There has been talk about the ability of Sammie Long and Elroy Masters, but much of the attention has been centered around Rashard Higgins.

Higgins is a 6'2", 180 pound freshman from Mesquite High School in Texas. In two scrimmages thus far, he has 79 yards and a touchdown on only five receptions. That production has been spread out between the ones, twos, and threes, but it is still a good indication of the talent he possesses.

Also in this year to help the Rams is converted safety Austin Gray. After playing both sides of the ball in high school, Gray was put at safety when he arrived in Fort Collins. He started the past two seasons with mixed success, but struggled getting on the field with several concussions in 2012. In order to protect his health, he was moved to wide receiver for spring practices and fits well in the group. His height, 6'3", allows him to get up and go after the ball, and while he is there his soft hands give him a good chance of pulling it in. So far through fall camp he has suffered from a minor injury and has seen limited reps. If he wants to contribute to this team through the season, he needs to get healthy and remain so.

With the addition of the new size on the perimeter, expect Lovett, Hansley, and Coffman to all have increased impact on the offense in the slot. Combine the revamped receiving corps with tight ends Crockett Gillmore and Kivon Cartwright, as well as a stable of running backs that can catch the ball; the Rams' quarterbacks have an arsenal to work with they have not had before.

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