Thursday, June 30, 2022

MSU's talented wide receiver room looks to dominate heading into 2022 season

April 12, 2022
<p>Michigan State redshirt junior wide receiver Jayden Reed catches the Peach Bowl-winning touchdown on Dec. 30, 2021.</p>

Michigan State redshirt junior wide receiver Jayden Reed catches the Peach Bowl-winning touchdown on Dec. 30, 2021.

Photo by Devin Anderson-Torrez | The State News

Redshirt senior wide receiver Jayden Reed could’ve called it quits on college football after his electric junior season where he became a household name in the Big Ten and within NFL scouting circles.

His 59 catch, 1026-yard, 10 touchdown season helped guide MSU’s offensive resurgence and set him up to make millions for his talents to play on Sunday.  He could’ve joined fellow offensive stars junior running back Kenneth Walker III, redshirt junior wide receiver Jalen Nailor and redshirt senior tight end Connor Heyward in the NFL draft process and had the memorable game-winning touchdown catch in the Peach Bowl as his send-off moment.

Instead, Reed decided to come back for his redshirt senior season looking to reach his ultimate goal of winning a national championship. Despite the individual accolades and team success, last season was not enough for Reed or the Spartans and he has unfinished business on his mind.

He returns as the leader of an extremely deep and talented wide receiver room that is looking to become the dynamic playmakers on the offense without Walker to split the defense open with gashing runs. Reed, along with returners like junior wide receivers Tre Mosley and Montorie Foster and sophomore wide receiver Keon Coleman, are looking to become those playmakers as the offense turns more to the passing game.

“We were fortunate that Jayden Reed decided to come back,” wide receivers coach Courtney Hawkins said. “Right now he's been a great leader in the room …  All these guys are, every day, pushing each other. And I think our room will be a pretty good room.”

Reed is spending the offseason coming into his own in terms of leadership while trying to perfect his fundamentals and technique to be even more of a commanding force individually for defenses to handle. 

On top of being an elite athlete in terms of speed, agility and leaping ability, Reed showed that he could get past defensive backs with precise routes and quick feet out of breaks. The next step in his evolution, Hawkins said, is to get stronger at the line of scrimmage and clean up footwork to make his routes even crisper.

“I see route running as an art form,” Hawkins said. “And you can always continue to get better at that art form, getting in and out of breaks, understanding coverages, understanding when to tempo yourself, when you speed it up. I think those are all things that you gain as you play the position. And the more you play,  the better you understand the art of being a wideout. I really think man, he's as good as anybody in the country, can actually be the best receiver in the country.”

Behind Reed is where the waters become muddy in the depth chart. Tre Mosley was the most consistent returning wideout that isn’t Reed as MSU’s third receiver last year and is in line to be the starting Z receiver this year. 

“There's a lot of guys in the receiver room who can make plays,” Mosley said. “So I'm looking forward to seeing everyone get in the mix and make plays when their number's called up.”

Foster started a few games at the end of the year because of Nailor’s wrist injury and has the athleticism to be an electrifying deep ball target. Redshirt sophomore Christian Fitzpatrick, who transferred from Louisville before last season, played sparingly but has the size (6’4) and speed to be an intriguing option. Early enrollee freshman wide receiver Germie Bernard, a four-star recruit out of high school, has the tools to be a top-level receiver and Hawkins said he’s fighting for snaps already.

Coleman is the enigma of the wide receiver room after playing briefly at the end of the season last year, catching MSU’s only touchdown in a blowout loss to Ohio State, and missed offseason conditioning because he was getting buckets off the bench for MSU basketball. 

“I made a lot of progression from when I first got here,” Coleman said of playing against Ohio State. “And through that progression, my coaches started to trust me more knowing the playbook — the mental side of things — and they trusted my physical abilities to put me out there and make a play. It boosted my confidence a lot going into the ball game.”

Coleman lived most kids’ dreams alongside redshirt sophomore tight end/forward Maliq Carr of playing football and basketball at the collegiate level. He was mostly confined to the sidelines for football because he was a raw athlete who was still learning the fundamentals of route running and blocking.

The few chances he got, however, did show the potential Coleman has to be a nightmare for opposing defenses for years to come. Now, he’s working to stand out in the crowded receiver room after having missed out on months worth of football-specific conditioning and practice.

But he’s more than up for the challenge, it appears. Coleman was back at practice the day after MSU basketball was bounced from the NCAA tournament by Duke with one goal on his mind for football: to dominate.

“Just keep getting better, to be honest,” Coleman said. “Perfecting the route running, the craft at my position and just go out there and dominate.”

But Coleman will have to prove that he’s a cut above his peers at the position. Like last year, MSU coaches are adamant that the best players will play, regardless of experience, and MSU has more talent than it can use at wide receiver.

“I'm a true believer of the cream will rise,” Hawkins said. “I think there'll be some guys that are a little ahead of the other guys, but we'll do a great job of bringing in the new guys and getting them up to speed. And we'll do what we gotta do to make our room the best room possible.”

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