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2023 TCU Football Preview: Wide Receivers

The wide receiver position experienced significant turnover this offseason but still should be a position of strength in 2023.

2023 CFP National Championship - TCU v Georgia Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The receiving corps was a huge position of strength last year for TCU as it was headlined by first-round NFL Draft Pick Quentin Johnston and had solid depth as well, both in the slot and on the outside. With the departure of Johnston, as well as a few other key contributors, the Frogs had a lot of production to replace this offseason and turned to the transfer portal as well as high school recruiting to find other impact players.

Key Losses

Johnston was one of the most talented receivers to ever play at TCU and the loss of his presence on the outside will have a big impact on the Frogs’ offense next season. He had a monster 2022 season despite dealing with injuries on and off throughout the season. Johnston accumulated over 1000 receiving yards and 6 touchdowns on 60 receptions, along with 2 rushing touchdowns this past season. Johnston’s value went beyond counting stats as other TCU receivers often saw more favorable matchups and less defensive attention thanks to Johnston being on the field. QJ’s ability to create separation against man coverage necessitated safety help for any corner that was assigned to cover Johnston, which opened up the rest of the field for the rest of TCU’s weapons to work. Johnston also made an impact in the running game as he was an excellent run blocker on the edge, using his size and strength to take corners out of the run defense. Good run-blocking receivers like Johnston can turn good plays into great plays, taking defenders away from the second level of the run fit, allowing ball carriers to turn solid gains into chunk plays.

Along with Johnston, Derius Davis was drafted by the Los Angeles Chargers this past year and will take with him the blazing speed that added to the big play threat that was the TCU offense last season. Davis was TCU’s second-leading receiver reception-wise, with 42 catches for 531 yards and five receiving touchdowns as well as one rushing touchdown in the 2022 season. Davis struggled at times with drops but was a big play waiting to happen with his excellent short-area quickness that led to plenty of missed tackles to go with incredible top-end speed.

The Frogs lost another starting slot receiver as Taye Barber signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Barber had arguably the best hands on the team last season and served as a safety blanket for Max Duggan. Barber was willing to make catches over the middle, was a smart route runner, and had a great ability to make catches in heavy traffic. The most memorable contested catch came in the end zone against Kansas late in the game in 2022. Barber was second on the team in receiving yards with 613 on 37 catches along with 5 receiving touchdowns.

The slot receiver position took another hit with the graduation of former walk-on, Gunnar Henderson. Henderson burst onto the scene as a senior in 2022 with 223 yards and 2 touchdowns on 11 catches as an excellent backup to Barber and Davis in the slot. Henderson was a very sure set of hands and was willing to go over the middle to make catches much like Barber.

The Frogs lost a few players to the transfer portal this offseason as well, headlined by former four-star Jordan Hudson. TCU will get a chance to see Hudson again as he committed to SMU and will play against the Frogs on September 23rd of 2023. Hudson showed flashes as a true freshman in 2022 with 14 catches for 174 yards and 3 touchdowns but never found a consistent role in the TCU offense as an outside receiver. Blair Conwright also transferred to another local school as the backup outside receiver will play in Denton for UNT next season. Conwright served as Johnston’s backup this past season and showed a reliable set of hands in limited opportunity.

Key Additions

The Frogs picked up a very impactful in-conference transfer in former Oklahoma State Cowboy John Paul Richardson who has the ability to play as a slot as well as an outside receiver next year for TCU. JPR was second on OSU in receptions last year with 49 catches for just over 500 yards and 4 touchdowns. Frog fans saw firsthand how good Richardson can be as he made a highlight real catch against TCU for a touchdown this past season as one of his five catches in the game. Richardson has great top-end speed and is adept at creating separation as a route runner and will be a big part of the TCU offense next season.

Potentially playing opposite of Richardson in the slot will be Jojo Earle who transferred to TCU from Alabama this offseason. Earle was a star at Aledo in high school and was a top 100 recruit out of high school before committing to Alabama. Earle has great run after catch ability and route-running ability and will be a candidate for kick and punt-returning duties due to his knack for making defenders miss. Earle has struggled occasionally with concentration drops but does not body catch often indicating that the drops are mostly mental and hopefully fixable. Look for Earle to be given touches in the same ways that Davis was last year, on jet sweeps, quick screens, and reverses. These plays create opportunities to pick up chunk plays without requiring a difficult throw from the quarterback.

The highest-rated high school recruit in the 2023 class for the Frogs was receiver Cordale Russell who should immediately compete for the starting outside receiver role opposite of Savion Williams. Russell was ranked as the number 65 player in the nation by 247 Sports and has the size at 6’4” and 205 pounds to stick at outside receiver in college. Russell was an early enrollee who participated in spring practices before suffering an injury that kept him out of the rest of spring but is not expected to keep him from starting fall camp at full strength. Russell has tremendous athleticism that enables him to make contested jump ball catches, create separation, and make defenders miss in the open field. For a more in-depth look at Russell and what to expect from him, check out our Freshman Film Room article on him from Miles Perry here:

The Frogs picked up a couple of other transfers that will have a chance to see significant playing time in Jaylon Robinson, Jack Bech, and Dylan Wright. Robinson is a Fort Worth native that transferred to TCU from Ole Miss and had his best collegiate season at UCF in 2020 with 55 catches for 979 yards and 6 touchdowns. Robinson has a chance to return to his 2020 form, as he enters an offense that will be quarterbacked by Chandler Morris who is best when he is making quick decisions in the short to intermediate depths which will benefit slot receivers like Robinson.

Bech is a former four-star who transfers to TCU after a very solid couple of years at LSU. Bech totaled 689 yards and 4 touchdowns on 59 catches through his two years as a Tiger. Bech saw a decrease in playing time this past year as 43 of his 59 catches came in 2021. He will have an opportunity to compete for time as an outside receiver with solid size at 6’2” and 215 pounds and a solid understanding of how to use his size to make contested catches.

Wright comes to TCU after three years at Minnesota where he averaged about 200 yards per season over his last two years. Wright has tremendous size standing at 6’4”, giving Morris room for error on throws down the field as he has a very wide catch radius and the strength to take 50/50 balls away from DBs.

Returning Production

The Frogs return one starting receiver from the 2022 season in Savion Williams who appears primed for a breakout season with almost all of the target share from last season now being up for grabs. Williams is a former four-star receiver who has shown he has the talent to be a star and should have the opportunity to do so this season. The 6’5” junior from Marshall, Texas had a solid 2022 campaign with 29 catches for 392 yards and 4 touchdowns and also served as a kick returner at different points in the season. Williams does a great job high-pointing the football to make catches on jump balls down the field. and has the athleticism to make very acrobatic catches on slightly misplaced throws such as this incredible catch against Iowa State.

He can create separation against man coverage but needs to do it more consistently to take the next step as a receiver. Williams’s development into the top outside receiver will be a very important part of the plan to replace the production that TCU lost to the draft and graduation this offseason.

Another returning name to keep an eye on is Major Everhart, a redshirt freshman from Amarillo, Texas. Everhart is a converted running back that was top 300 recruit in his class and has speed to burn as a slot receiver that could take a spot high on the depth chart this season. Everhart was redshirted in 2022 but looked strong in spring practices and should find his way onto the field in some way as his skill as a ball carrier can be a weapon for the Frogs.

Although TCU lost an all-time great at wide receiver along with two other players that are now on NFL rosters, the receiving corps looks primed to be strong in 2023 again thanks to a combination of talented newcomers and returners that are ready to take a step forward.