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Previewing Texas Tech vs. Ole Miss: Receivers

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RECEIVER

Player Ht/Wt Class Rec Att Rec Yds Rec Avg Rec TD
Michael Crabtree 6'3"/214 So. 93 1,135 12.20 18
Detron Lewis 6'0"/209 So. 71 869 12.24 3
Eric Morris 5'8"/177 Sr. 64 682 10.66 8
Tramain Swindall 6'3"/175 Fr. 42 528 12.57 2
Lyle Leong 6'1"/165 So. 17 199 11.71 3
Adam James 6'3"/217 So. 15 159 10.60 1
Mike Wallace 6'0"/180 Sr. 35 704 20.11 6
Shay Hodge 6'1"/207 Jr. 42 676 16.10 8
Dexter McCluster 5'8"/165 Jr. 38 542 14.26 1
Lionel Breaux 6'1"/191 So. 12 178 14.83 0

Texas Tech

Were you expecting some other
picture of Mr. Crabtree?

I'd like to tell you that this is somewhat close, but it's not. As dominant as Graham Harrell is to Snead statistically, so are the Red Raider receivers to the Rebel receivers. It's about sheer numbers and having one of the most talented receivers in NCAA history.

Starting at the top, there's no doubt that Michael Crabtree continued to improve on his successful freshman season. There were no break-out games like in 2007, but in 2008 it was all about the touchdowns. In 2007, Crabtree had 17 touchdowns in his first 6 games and only 5 touchdowns in his last 7 games. Crabtree was shut out of the endzone against OU and obviously against Baylor due to his injury, but up until those two games, Crabree was a regular touchdown machine. Six touchdowns against Kansas, Texas and Oklahoma State. It should also be noted that Crabtree toughened up this year and the days of trying to jam Crabtree at the line of scrimmage to throw him off of his route are behind him. Play too close and he'll beat you deep, play to far back and he'll catch the ball and run over you.

There's still some question as to whether or not Crabtree is going to play due to his ankle injury, but if he could have played the week after the Baylor game in a Big 12 Championship Game, then I like my chances.

Detron Lewis emerged as a legitimate threat going over the middle and taking over Danny Amendola's old position. Not quite the 100 catch season that Amendola had, but there's no question that if Crabtree leaves, Lewis should be the new star of this offense. Emo continues to simply rack up the yards and score touchdowns. It's that easy if you're 5'8" (stretching it and see McCluster below). Some serious credit needs to go to Britton for becoming a more consistent catcher. There's no doubt that Britton always had the speed, but it's doing something with those passes (i.e. catching them) when they're thrown your way and Britton has done that. Swindall has quietly, or at least to me, produced an excellent season, and despite the fact that this is his first year, he's been pretty good at making tough catches and holding onto the ball.

Philosophically, Graham Harrell did a better job of spreading the ball to various receivers and although it meant that Michael Crabtree didn't match his 2007 numbers, the offense was more effective. In 2007, the top 5 receivers for Texas Tech caught the following percentage of passes (i.e. the average of the total receptions of the top 5 receivers and their percentage of catches of that total):

2007 % 2008 % Delta
Crabtree 33.84% Crabtree 31.00% -2.84
Amendola 27.53% D. Lewis 23.67% -3.86
E. Morris 18.94% E. Morris 21.33% +2.39
E. Britton 12.12% T. Swindall 14.00% +1.88
G. Walker 7.58% E. Britton 10.00% +2.42

The thing that stands out to me is that the bottom three of those top 5 receivers received a bigger share of the football, which means that Harrell did a better job of spreading the wealth.

Mississippi

Rebel Mike Wallace, not Mike Wallace

I'm actually very impressed with Ole Miss' receiving corp and it doesn't take someone with a ton of smarts to realize that what the Rebels miss in number of receptions, they make up in average yards per catch. All four of Ole Miss's top receivers are averaging more than 14 yards a catch and are really getting behind secondaries or getting the ball down the field, which is something that I noted about Snead's yards/attempt in the Quarterbacks Preview.

Shay Hodges is the receptions leader and is more than likely the possession-type receiver at a measley 16 yards a reception. Hodges has good size and judging by his numbers, eight touchdowns, he's a threat to score. In fact, he scored at least 1 touchdown 8 times this season (i.e., he only had 1 game with multiple touchdowns, against Memphis) and is good for a TD a game.

Mike Wallace is the senior of the group and he is by far and away, the best deep threat for the Rebels. At the beginning of the year, he was quite inconsistent, but as the year's progressed, he's been very effective, averaging over 81 yards a game in the month of November.

We breifly talked about Dexter McCluster during the Running Backs Preview is that Nutt wants to get McCluster the ball all over the field. McCluster is very hit-or-miss in the passing game. He's caught 132 yards on 7 catches against Vandy and against Mississippi State, he had 1 catch for 7 yards. As McCluster's rushing attempts have increased, so his receptions per game has decreased. Makes sense, there's just so many opportunities to pass around.

As inconsistent McCluster is, Lionel Breaux is even more inconsistent. I think it's safe to say that Breaux is not much of a target for Snead and has only caught passes in 5 games this year, although he did catch 1 pass for 39 yards against LSU. Don't look for Breaux to do much at the Cotton Bowl.

Conclusion:

Much like the quarterback position, this matchup was pretty easy. One team has a two-time Biletnikoff winner and the other team does not.

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