Wake Forest’s Wide Receivers Are The Consistency In The Offense

Wake Forest’s Wide Receivers

With so much change going on throughout the Wake Forest football program, there is one position that is seeing very little. Wake Forest’s wide receivers are the consistency in the offense. Oh, sure there is one obvious personnel change. But the talent depth in the room is undeniable.

Yes, A.T. Perry is gone. Last year’s leading receiver will hear his name called somewhere on day two or three of the NFL draft later this month. But the next four guys on the stat chart return, along with an infusion of new talent and a new position coach with a palpable energy level for his job.

Change At The Top

Let’s start with the guy leading the receivers. Ari (pronounced Ah-dee) Confesor comes to Winston Salem via the Air Force Academy. He coached the Falcons’ receiver position for four years. Prior to that, he was at his alma mater, Holy Cross for a year. In his playing days, Confesor was a two-time FCS All-American. He has been inducted into the Holy Cross Athletic Hall of Fame.

Confesor is replacing Kevin Higgins who has moved into a front-office role with the program. Confesor told us this week, he knew before Spring camp even started that he was taking on a deep and talented receiver group.

Consistency In The Pass Catchers

While Perry moves on, Jahmal Banks and Donavon Greene return. Regardless of which two wideouts were on the field at any given time last year, head coach Dave Clawson would tell you they had three starters. Greene is the more well-known physical entity. He missed 2021 with a knee injury but returned in a major way in 2022. The 6-2, 210-pound receiver had 37 catches for 642 yards and six touchdowns.

In the shadow of Perry and Greene, Banks, at times, was the best on the field. Offensive coaches would tell us all the quarterbacks had to do was get it in the neighborhood of his hands and he would use his body to fend off the defender. He finished the season with 751 yards on 42 receptions to go with nine touchdowns.

With the main wideouts down to two, it opens up a spot for this year’s “up and comer” receiver…the role that Banks filled last season. Spring camp has seen some bright moments from the likes of Aalijah Kelly, Ke’Shawn Williams, and Wesley Grimes.

The Assessment

Confesor assessed what he has seen through the four weeks of Spring camp in his receiver group. “Improvement. Every day from day one, you see steady improvement in terms of their game and how they play,” he said this week. He told us the unit spends a lot of time together off the field as much as it fights for catches on the field. “We compete, and we get banged up at times, but other guys have stepped up.”

Indeed at various times throughout the Spring, Banks, Greene, and slot receiver Tyler Morin have either missed practice or been wearing the red/no-contact jersey. No one has suffered what is thought to be any long-term injuries. But if the receiver group is going to have the depth it needs, coming out of Spring healthy this week is going to be key.

“When you have guys get banged up, that means somebody else has to step up,” Confesor said in his well-honed coach talk. “So you have a lot of guys that got valuable reps with the ones and the twos, that may normally not get those reps.”

Grimes concurred with what Confesor had told us. “I feel like our group keeps getting better and better. We keep developing as a corps. Every day we are teaching each other things and learning off one another.”

Replacing Perry’s Production

Banks told us earlier in the Spring that the receivers are not feeling pressure to replace Perry’s production. “I think we’re focusing on just getting better and being your best self,” he said. “I think we are just focused on bringing out the best in each other. Then we’re going to find the best in ourselves and be the best player we can be.”

Grimes said he is looking forward to the opportunity to move up the receiver food chain. “Every day I am just trying to maximize my opportunities and just really show the coaches that they can trust me and that I am ready to play in this offense,” he told us.

As Grimes moves up the ladder, he is doing so with the same quarterback he has been catching balls from for some time; Mitch Griffis. The new starting quarterback has a throwing motion that is decidedly different than Sam Hartman’s. But Grimes said it does not impact him at all. “Last year I got to play with Mitch a lot because we worked together on the twos and the threes.” He said it has given him an opportunity to work with the other receivers on their adjustment to the new passer.

The New Guy

Another addition to the group is Walker Merrill, the transfer from Tennessee. Like others, he has spent time in the red jersey this Spring. He only had 113 receiving yards and three touchdowns last year playing in a Volunteers offense that highlighted Biletnikoff Award winner Jalin Hyatt. He has been given looks as a slot receiver and a wideout during the Spring. Grimes called him, “A great addition to the receiver room. He’s a great receiver who can go make the play no matter where you put him.”

Confesor said the work as a group is what is going to bring the receivers along to a performance level like what they have had in the past. He said, even with the players that missed some practice, there was growth during the Spring. “It’s good from the sidelines just to get mental reps and coach up the young guys.”

Wake has one more practice this week, followed by the Spring scrimmage on Saturday.

 

Wake Forest’s Wide Receivers

Photo courtesy: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports