JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Across the board, expectations are as large as Florida's coastline for Jacksonville's 2015 football season, and the wide receivers are no exception to the high standards.
That's the way that it should be for the receiving Dolphins. Despite graduating standout Andrew Robustelli from 2014, Jacksonville returns another star, Andy Jones, and a plethora of speed to unleash on its opponents.
"Even though we are a little younger than we were last year, the athletic ability of our players is really impressive to me," said wide receivers coach Nick Navarro.
It starts out with the returning starter, Jones. Owner of an impressive skill set, the starting X-receiver has considerable prospects for playing at the next level and has already excited scouts.
"He's got it inside himself. He's got that internal drive and wants to be great. He takes coaching, listens well, and applies what you tell him. He studies the game, wants to know what's going on, and how he can win," said Navarro. "Knowing what the opponent is doing and how he can apply his skills to counter that helps him excel."
Navarro's words speak truth amongst Jones' teammates. During training camp, each position group named the Honorable Mention All-Pioneer Football Leaguer the hardest working player on the team.
As a junior, he started 11 games, caught 46 passes (tied for a team-best) for 684 yards (which led the team) and scored seven times.
Lining up on the other side of the hash marks from Jones will be Prince Gray at Z-receiver. As a true freshman, he was second on the depth chart last season and saw meaningful reps on offense and special teams.
"He's developed quickly into a solid player. I think he has a high upside as he continues to mature in a starter's role," said Navarro.
A familiar name in Damien Strange will line up as the Y-receiver. The junior saw action in 10 games last fall and hauled in 21 passes for 255 yards and one touchdown.
"He made some big strides this offseason. He's taken lots of meaningful reps and is running routes better. He understands what we are doing at a much higher level, and has shown signs of greatness. I'm very excited to see what he will do this year," said his coach.
Brian Burnett, who switched from being a defensive back during spring practice, and Orlando Thomas will both see time at the H-receiver. In spite of the initiation across the line of scrimmage, Navarro and others have been pleased with Burnett's progress.
"He has a real ability to do things that we like. He's able to win against man coverage, his route running skills have improved tremendously, he catches the ball well, and he can jump well," said Navarro.
Thomas will look to build on the 11 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns he accounted for last season. The fifth-year senior also racked up 279 yards rushing on 30 carries and three touchdowns.
The Dolphin receiving corps hopes to stretch around seven players-deep, and Navarro was quick to point out others who have shown strides in their development.
The youthful receivers have shown their mettle in squaring off against a talented secondary each day during camp. Navarro feels that the Dolphin defensive backs are the best in the league, so practicing everyday against them ignites the development of the young talent.
Williams was a jack of all trades, and Benton was a running back in an option offense. The Georgia duo, like others, are still learning the intricacies of Jacksonville's dynamic offensive system.
"Once you understand what we are doing, it clicks and you can start playing fast. We put a lot on them to make us right in the route," said Navarro, also noting that it takes about a year to truly grasp the offense. "When we are all in sync, it's a scary monster for our conference."