After Producing NFL Talent, Who’s Next At Wide Receiver For CSU?
Across a handful of NFL training camps, you can find wide receivers who have graduated from the Colorado State University wide receiver room to pro football.
Michael Gallup is training in Oxnard, California with the Dallas Cowboys and is a trendy breakout pick after a 507-yard rookie season. Rashard Higgins is in Berea, Ohio preparing with the suddenly-potent Cleveland Browns.
Seventh-round pick Olabisi Johnson is fighting for a job with the Minnesota Vikings. Undrafted free agent Preston Williams is standing out in camp with the Miami Dolphins and was recently called “special” by Pro Bowl cornerback Xavien Howard.
So what does that leave in Fort Collins? A whole lot of opportunities for new Rams wideouts to make their mark.
“We’ve got a lot of talent in that room but we don’t have a lot of experience,” head coach Mike Bobo said during his media day press conference on Monday.
Williams and Johnson combined to catch 150 passes for 18 touchdowns and more than 2,000 receiving yards last year. The duo accounted for nearly 60 percent of all the team’s receiving yards in 2018.
“(Wide receivers coach Joe Cox) is really supportive of us but he’s also truthful — He told us ‘No one in this room has done anything yet,’” said Brenden Fulton, a Greeley native who is vying for more playing time at wide receiver this season.
“Everything is down to business in the receiver room right now.”
CSU’s presumptive starting quarterback Collin Hill, who threw for 1,387 yards and seven touchdowns last year, has been working to get in rhythm with receiving core during the first few days of camp.
“They have been making plays,” Hill said. “It’s a really unique group with a lot of different guys that complement each other.”
6-foot-6 California native Warren Jackson is the most experienced returner at wide receiver. He caught 32 balls for 405 yards and four touchdowns last season and has 670 career receiving yards to his credit.
Jackson is the likeliest to see an increased role.
“He’s a big dude, big target,” Hill said. “You kind of just put in his area and he’ll catch it. He has the mentality if you put it up there he’s going to go get it.”
Fulton, one of Hill’s new roommates, has primarily played special teams in his career but is vying for an expanded role in 2019. Fulton is currently battling a minor ankle injury.
“He's kind of like the Patriots-type receiver, like a Julian Edelman,” Hill said. “Just really tough and a heady football player. He’s a shifty and sly guy. Really quick, smart and has good hands.”
Elsewhere in the receiver room: Nikko Hall returns after an eight-catch freshman campaign and injured E.J. Scott looks to get healthy enough to build on his seven-catch season from last year.
Former defensive back Jadon Walker, who played quarterback in high school, has transitioned to wide receiver. Auburn transfer Nate Craig-Myers could contribute this season after accumulating 394 yards and four touchdowns during his two-year stint with the Tigers.
Bobo also mentioned freshman Dante Wright, Ty McCullouch and Jaylen Hearst as potential contributors off to strong starts in camp.
Because of the inexperience at wide receiver, the Rams may also look to play more two-tight end formations — something Bobo ran often at Georgia when he had future NFL tight ends Ben Watson and Leonard Pope.
CSU returns talented tight ends Cameron Butler (29 catches for 312 yards last season), Trey McBride (7 catches for 89 yards) and Griffin Hammer (5 catches for 50 yards).
But now, the Rams will use the rest of the training camp to try and find their next star wide receiver.
“We have been on a pretty good run lately with the NFL guys,” Hill said.