Position-by-Position Breakdowns: Wide receivers
Published: Thursday, August 29, 2013
Updated: Thursday, August 29, 2013 22:08
Imagine attending a typical UB football practice. Throwing, running, drills and scrimmaging – the two hours on the field are spent fluently while the players perfect their craft.
So why would everyone at a Bulls practice suddenly stop and look around in confusion? Did Alex Neutz just drop a pass?
“They get mad at me,” said Neutz, who led the Bulls with 65 receptions last season. “If someone else drops a ball it’s like, ‘OK, on to the next play.’ They look at me like I just ended the world.”
Neutz has some of the best hands in the nation. His counterpart at receiver, senior Free Lee, took legitimate time to consider before answering if he has ever seen Neutz drop a ball.
“If he does drop one, everyone just stops and we have to find a reason, like it was a bad throw or a good play by the defender,” Lee said.
Neutz enters his final year ranked second in program history in touchdowns, and he has been named to the 2013 Biletnikoff Watch List. Despite his 11 touchdowns last year, Neutz was left off the All-Mid-American Conference first team – a snub that fuels Neutz at times.
“It fuels me a little, it gets me fired up, but that’s not my main goal,” Neutz said. “My main goal is not to go to first team All-MAC. My main goal is to get us to a MAC Championship.”
Unlike his previous three years, Neutz has been handed the responsibilities of returning punts this year, even though it’s something he’s never done as a Bull.
Head coach Jeff Quinn gave a concise response when asked about the fear of Neutz’s susceptibility in returning punts.
“You can’t play cautious, you can’t make decisions based on, ‘Oh, what if you get a guy hurt?’” Quinn said. “Great players need to be on that field and we got to put the best 11 [out there] and if the best 11 on special teams are all starters on offense and defense, then play them.”
This will be Neutz’s last chance at a MAC Championship.
“Four years in a row of sitting home in December, having the season end around Thanksgiving time, having to watch all those other teams play and be excited with their teammates, it makes you feel down about it,” Neutz said. “It makes you feel that you have to get there and get past that plateau.”
For the Bulls to achieve their aspirations of a Mid-American Conference title, it is going to take more than one reliable target for sophomore quarterback Joe Licata.
That’s where senior wide receiver Fred Lee steps in. After missing time last year with a broken hand, Lee has emerged as the go-to No. 2 receiver for the Bulls.
“Fred is our guy and he would have been that guy last year had he not broken his hand and been injured,” said No. 1 receiver Alex Neutz. “I’m excited to see him get a full season starting.”
It’s been a busy offseason for Lee, who has increased his workout regiment to add speed, quickness and explosiveness. He hopes all the hard work will pay off come game time – especially when Neutz is demanding double teams.
“I’m going to get a lot of one-on-one matchups,” Lee said. “That’s why I’ve been working a lot on release moves and stuff like that, to kind of mold my craft. Because Alex is going to be Alex, so I got to step in and fill that void that’s coming in behind him.”
Lee performed admirably in the six games he played in last year, most notably hauling in a late-game 36-yard touchdown in a win against Miami Ohio, putting together a 70-yard performance against Western Michigan and having a career-high 93-yard game in a win over UMass.
The placement of senior wide receivers Alex Neutz and Fred Lee atop the Bulls’ receiving depth chart is no surprise. The third slot, however, was an open race when camp started. Junior speedsters Cordero Dixon and Devon Hughes were viable candidates, but ultimately head coach Jeff Quinn decided to name junior John Dunmore the Bulls’ third starter at wide receiver.
Dunmore’s clinching of that third slot couldn’t come with greater praise from his coach and teammates.
“It’s their job to make themselves noticed and he made himself noticed,” Quinn said. “[Dunmore] has done a great job in terms of his effort and his mindset – that’s what has separated him … If you want to be a starter, come in and compete, practice and prepare like one and that’s what John has done and he has earned the right to be that starter out there.”
Lee emphasized Dunmore had an amazing camp and despite not being the biggest guy (6-foot, 178 pounds), he has the biggest heart of anyone he has ever seen on the team.
Dunmore was a walk on for the Bulls but has since earned a scholarship in the program. He made his presence known on the field last year when given the opportunity – most notably with a seven-catch game against Pittsburgh.