Few people outside of the Red Raider fan base had heard of Antoine Wesley before this season. It has only taken five games for that to change. The junior from Cibolo has tallied 621 yards in only five games, which was good enough for third in the nation in yards before the bye week. His 38 receptions are second in the Big 12. He is on track to put up 1,614 yards with a bowl game, which would be the most by a Texas Tech receiver since Michael Crabtree. While Keke Coutee and Jonathan Giles might be more impressive than Wesley on paper and in terms of skill, Wesley has shown the versatility to make play inside, outside, downfield, and near the line of scrimmage. Here are a few things that have really stood out for Wesley in the first six games after last night’s game against TCU.
Not many people viewed Antoine Wesley as an agile receiver prior to this season, yet in five games he has managed to make people miss more than any other receiver for the Red Raiders thus far this season. Two of his touchdowns have come on big plays after a catch. His shiftiness has allowed him to get separation on both inside and outside routes. After the catch Wesley has managed to put together many big gains, with three plays this season in which Wesley has had at least twenty yards after the catch. No other player has more than one catch with more than twenty yards after the catch this year.
After only five games Antoine Wesley has eight catches that have gone for 20+ yards. Two of those catches have come on out routes, one from a catch and run in the flats, one came from a slant route, while the last four have come from two deep post routes and two go routes. Wesley has played the majority of his snaps on the outside, yet runs the variety of routes typically seen by a slot receiver. Wesley already has more yardage than either T.J. Vasher or Derrick Willies (who is now a contributor for the Browns) had over the course of last season. He is on track to match Dylan Cantrell’s production from last season within the next three games, and Cantrell was considered one of the best outside receivers that the Red Raiders had over the past decade . Much of this yardage is due to Wesley’s diverse route tree.
In the past defenders could key in on one area of the field to bracket previous receivers, and thus would be able to contain those receivers. With both Wesley and T.J. Vasher being deep threats it forces at least one corner into a one on one match-up downfield in traditional one safety looks, while bracketing Wesley over the top and bringing an extra safety up to contain Vasher leaves Ja’Deion High in an advantageous single coverage match-up. If the defense play two safeties deep while also bringing a third defensive back over the middle, Wesley can utilize his strong short sideline routes to get open. This makes the Red Raiders extremely tough to stop in man coverage, and Wesley’s diverse route tree prevents defenses from playing either Cover 2 or Cover 3 consistently against him.
One of the most notable difference for this Texas Tech offense this year has been the downfield blocking by receivers. This is one reason why the Red Raiders have at least two touchdown runs in every game so far this year, and a major explanation for the increase in big runs (each running back has at least two runs of ten plus yards.) When you watch Antoine Wesley block, you will often see him engage almost as if he is running a route, however he does a nice job of maintaining leverage. He also knows when to let off a block when a run has already sprung, a trait that is minor but still can cause problems (two Ta’Zhawn Henry touchdowns were called back for unnecessary holds against Lamar.) Wesley also creates good separation on fade routes with his physicality, as he utilizes strong body positioning and leverage to force a defender in the way he wants them to go.
While Antoine Wesley has a long way to go to be considered as good of a receiver as Michael Crabtree, Keke Coutee, and Jakeem Grant, his game is extremely well rounded, and his complete arsenal of skills provides a unique match-up nightmare not seen in West Texas since the days of Michael Crabtree. Agree? Disagree? Leave your comment below!