With the departures of wide receivers Erik Ezukanma and Kaylon Geiger, there are two gaping holes in Texas Tech’s offense for 2022.
While wide receiver has never been a problem in past years, it looks to be an issue for Tech this offseason. Ezukanma and Geiger accounted for most of the production at outside receiver last season. Outside of them, only Myles Price, who will more than likely be Tech’s leading slot receiver in 2022, gained more than 500 receiving yards.
Replacing Ezukanma and Geiger at outside receiver will be a collection of players including juniors Loic Fouonji and Trey Cleveland, redshirt sophomore J.J. Sparkman and sophomores Jerand Bradley and Brady Boyd.
On one hand, all of these guys have massive potential. On the other, all are inexperienced, and two of them will take on starting roles this coming season. Spring practice gives a chance for two of those five to emerge.
Here’s a breakdown of all five players:
Fouonji is one of the leading candidates to land Tech’s WR1 spot for next season. He caught eight passes last season for 171 yards in ten games. His one touchdown was a 69-yard reception against Texas. In 2020, he played in just three games, catching one touchdown against Oklahoma State.
Out of all the returning outside receivers, Fouonji has been the most impressive. He has the ideal build for a top receiver at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds. Fouonji also has a great burst and top-end speed, two things everyone wants in a receiver. He hasn’t had many chances to see the field so far. But when he did get playing time, he made it count.
His reps are a small sample size, but he’s shown much potential. Look for Fouonji to make a significant impact in 2022.
Cleveland played the most snaps of any returning outside receiver, bringing the most experience to an inexperienced group. He caught 11 passes for 148 yards and one touchdown last season and eight passes for 81 yards and one touchdown in 2020.
Cleveland played in all 13 games last season and was a constant part of Tech’s rotation at outside receiver. Like Fouonji, he’s also 6-foot-4, albeit smaller at 195 pounds. He’s also similar to Fouonji in terms of his speed, having an ability to gain considerable yards after the catch.
He can definitely stretch the field well. If Fouonji becomes a starter, Cleveland can play off him well on the other side.
Sparkman burst on the scene late in the year last season. He caught two touchdowns, showing off his leaping ability in both. Against Oklahoma, Sparkman caught a pass over a Sooners defender for a score and did the same in the Liberty Bowl against Mississippi State. The latter catch appeared in a “You Got Moss’d” segment on ESPN.
He is definitely the most eye-catching and arguably the most athletic of the returning players. Like T.J. Vasher and Antoine Wesley, Sparkman can bring down jump balls in 1-on-1 coverage well. He has the potential to be Tech’s “big-play” guy and can at least provide much-needed depth if he fails to land a starting role.
Alongside those two touchdowns, Sparkman caught seven passes for 84 yards last season.
Bradley is the youngest of this group but has a lot of potential. He managed to see some playing time in his freshman season last year, catching five passes for 99 yards in four games. He got a chance to shine in the Liberty Bowl, catching two passes for 36 yards.
Bradley brings ideal size and physicality to the table. His ability to gain yards after the catch is also impressive, especially for an outside receiver. His athleticism and speed can improve, which are two of the reasons he likely won’t land a starting spot. However, he’s got plenty of time to improve and can play a key depth role for the Red Raiders in 2022.
Boyd, a transfer from Minnesota, didn’t do much last season, catching only two passes for 18 yards. Despite this, his high school tape shows what kind of receiver he can become.
As a senior at Southlake Carroll High School, Boyd caught 70 passes for 1,120 yards and 17 touchdowns. Like the others, he possesses great size, but also adds great speed and strong hands as well.
Boyd has the most potential out of any receiver on the roster. If that potential can be tapped into serious playing time, there’s no telling where Boyd can end up. Thanks to his all-around ability and a wide-open receiver room, he’s got the chance to earn immediate playing time.
Even though Tech is losing its top two receivers, there’s still a lot of diverse talent at head coach Joey McGuire’s disposal. Some, like Fouonji and Cleveland, thrive on speed. Others, like Sparkman and Boyd, thrive in 1-on-1 situations. Offensive coordinator Zach Kittley will definitely find a way to use all five in a variety of ways.
The competition this spring between the five will be intense, and there’s much potential, talent, and receptions to go around. It’s an inexperienced group, but it’s also a group to be very excited about.