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UTEP football: Wide receiving core still has questions, but depth is not an issue

Injuries, new faces, and uncertainty at quarterback have faced the wide receivers in camp.

Alex Nicolas

A slew of injuries has been the headline among the wide receiver corps so far through camp, but despite the uncertainty at who plays where, and who is slinging the rock; there is still plenty of talent to be displayed throughout the season.

One of the biggest breakout camp stars out of the entire roster is junior wideout and El Paso Native Cole Freytag.

"I put in a lot of work in the summer with the quarterbacks." Freytag said.  "Doing a lot of 7 on 7, a lot of route running, I put in a lot of work in the weight room and working on my speed.  I had an opportunity and I took advantage of it and I'm just thankful to be here."

Freytag is proving to be a legit down field weapon, with sneaky hops on 50/50 balls.  At 6'2, 200 pounds, Freytag has also displayed a physical route running style.

Used a lot as a blocker last year, his stellar camp will have him doing a number of things on offense, and the coaches could also see the need of getting the ball in his hands based off his strong camp.

The junior has shown a great chemistry with Garrett Simpson in practices I have seen, but says the quarterback competition has not slowed his growth and  has helped built chemistry with both Mack Leftwich and Garrett Simpson.

"I have great chemistry with Mack and Garrett so I think that definitely helped me out." Freytag said.

Of course this position group is where Autrey Golden now calls home, and the senior will be used in a number of ways, including being the lead sweep guy in the new Wild Miner.

Moving to wide receiver in the middle of last season, Golden led all pass catchers in 2014 with 31 receptions for 263 yards.  Golden may not rack up eye popping receiving numbers in UTEP's run first offense, but will certainly increase his receiving numbers, and of course his all-purpose yards with the way UTEP will use him this year.

Over the past couple of weeks Donovan Walker, Tyler Batson, and Jaquan White have shown flashes of production potential, but the main question is who will breakout out of the three, as they all seem to complement the offense.

Batson goes 6'2, 200 pounds, and excelled in a recent practice on out routes, and muscling through tight coverage for catches.

Walker and White run great short routes, and both are becoming the most sure handed receivers out of the corps.

You will see White used a lot and mainly out of the slot, while Walker will work as a Z-receiver on the outside.

Last season UTEP employed a rotation at receiver that was based on play calls.  The offense looks to be way more diverse this season, meaning each receiver mentioned could have some sort of specialty role once again this season.

"We've always wanted to be diverse," Sean Kugler said "I think personnel wise we have the guys who can do that."

"I hope we rotate like that this year." Freytag said of UTEP's receiver rotation from last year. "More of a rotation based on our stamina, and how we're doing and holding up rather than specific plays so we can keep the defense on their heels.  But whatever the coaching staff wants to do is fine with me."

UTEP has also utilized a slot receiver more than ever before in camp, and like pretty much every position group we will hit on, there is a freshman who has breakout season potential.

Watching a recent practice, the truth about Warren Redix is he will become Autrey Golden 2.0 in his UTEP career.

His shifty style of running with the ball, parlayed with his track star speed, along with his incredible vision will have Redix right behind Golden as the motion man in the Wild Miner, and also on reverses.

Redix also has the speed to create down field mismatches out of the slot if a linebacker or safety is manned up on him.  It appeared Redix wouldn't be asked to do much this year, but with injuries have came Redix's rise a legit factor out of the slot.

There are two receivers who have battled injuries that can make this unit pretty scary once they return.

Brandon Moss is back in the mix after missing the past couple of weeks with a shoulder injury, and former JUCO all-American Terry Juniel is still dealing with a foot injury, but is expected to debut early in the season.

Once they both fully return, junior wideout Jaquan White thinks this unit will be something of a strength for the UTEP offense.

"When everybody gets back healthy we're going to give people a run for their money, we have so many athletes that it's crazy." White said after a recent scrimmage.

Another name not to forget is JUCO transfer Elliott Oldham.

Oldham has been dealing with an unknown injury, but appears very close to returning.  He maybe further behind than any receiver battling for a depth chart spot, but the 6'3 native of Detroit will certainly be in the mix as the season goes on.

The biggest question here is who steps up and helps usher in a new quarterback in the run heavy style of UTEP's offense.

If a receiver emerges in a big production, and consistent type of way, teams won't be able to stack the box, and UTEP can add another identity to what could be a versatile, physical, and ultra-athletic offensive unit.

Z-WR X-WR Slot
Autrey Golden-Senior Cole Freytag-Junior Jaquan White-Junior
Donovan Walker-Junior Tyler Batson-Sophomore Warren Redix-Freshman
Brandon Moss-Junior Elliott Oldham-Junior Terry Juniel Sophomore