Wideout position low on experience, high on potential

Jakari Wallace is the only backup Gophers receiver with a collegiate reception.

Matt Perkins

This day and age, it’s all about the playmakers in football, and more and more, they’re at the wide receiver position.

The Gophers have senior Jared Ellerson as an established possession receiver, while Ernie Wheelwright earned playmaker status as a freshman last season.

Now they are in search of another young and talented wideout to make a name for himself, and they think they have quite the selection to choose from.

“We have been working hard to make every one of our receivers a strength of our team,” wide receivers coach Luke Tressel said. “When these guys get a chance to show everyone what they can do, they are going to perform.”

Five-foot-8-inch Jakari Wallace is the most experienced receiver on the Gophers roster outside Ellerson and Wheelwright, with four starts and 23 catches heading into this season. Wallace is the only returning wideout other than Ellerson and Wheelwright to have hauled in a regular season reception.

While the Gophers lack experience at the wideout position, Tressel said they make up for it with unheard-of potential.

Sophomore Micah Rucker looks to make use of his 6-foot-6-inch frame this season, and junior Logan Payne, who has earned playing time on special teams, could figure in as well.

The receiver position is particularly important to the Gophers this year because of the early exit of Marion Barber III.

Laurence Maroney, Barber’s former backfield buddy, won’t sneak up anyone with all the preseason awards he’s garnered, and he said he thinks that means more action for quarterback Bryan Cupito and his receiving corps.

“What’s going to stop a team from putting nine in the box?” Maroney said. “We ain’t going to have a rotation like me and Marion had. It’s going to be a one-back rotation most of the time, and they’re going to stack the nine, and we’re going to have to pass out of it. We’ve got to make them play honest.” 

One guy who knows a little about keeping the defense honest is senior Quentin White.

White, who was a defensive back for the Gophers his first three seasons, makes the move to the other side of the ball in hopes of being another threat on the outside. And Tressel went as far to label White as more than just a threat, but rather calling him “a true playmaker.”

“I’ve been learning the routes so that when I get my chance I can do everything I can to make this football team win games,” White said.

Although White acknowledges his inexperience at the position, he said his experience as quarterback in high school helps him fit right in with the Gophers’ offensive scheme.

And he can’t wait for when he and the others get a chance to show their talent.

“That’s what we’re living for – to make plays,” he said. “If we get that chance, look out.”

Three honored by SI

Sports Illustrated named senior center Greg Eslinger to its 2005 Preseason All-America Team last week, while Maroney was named a dark-horse candidate for the Heisman Trophy.

They received additional recognition by the Sporting News, as did senior guard Mark Setterstrom, when they were named to the magazine’s 2005 Preseason All-America Team.

Fan Fest Saturday

The Gophers hold their annual Fan Fest on Saturday, with a scrimmage at 1 p.m.

Doors open at 12:30 p.m. There will be pizza for $1 and free pop while supplies last. Fans will also get a chance to pick up season tickets at 20 percent off.