Georgia Tech wide receiver Ricky Jeune enters his third season as a starter, a player who mostly fills a supporting role but can occasionally be called on for the big play.
Of his 25 catches last season, 19 went for first downs, and five of them converted plays of third-and-7 or longer. He’s ready for the season ahead.
“I had a good spring and I’m looking forward to carrying that into the season,” Jeune said.
One of just two seniors in the offensive starting lineup – offensive tackle Andrew Marshall is the other, although A-back J.J. Green figures to play plenty — Jeune figures to have a central role in the offense, whether receiving or blocking.
A look at the Tech receiving group:
Returning starters: Ricky Jeune, Sr., Brad Stewart, Jr.
Notable reserves: Jalen Camp, Soph., Antonio Messick, Sr.
On the way: Adonicas Sanders, Fr.
Analysis: With 43 starts between Jeune and Stewart, this is a highly experienced position group. Further, both were effective in the passing game with Justin Thomas the past two seasons and are developing as perimeter blockers in the run game. Jeune isn’t a burner, but has good hands and pro potential. He can improve at getting off the line. Stewart has excellent ball skills and is particularly adept at out-leaping cornerbacks for the ball, but can develop into a more physical receiver.
Together, they caught 44 passes for 809 yards last season, 18.4 yards per catch. Of the 44 receptions, 31 went for first downs. In the Johnson era, Jeune’s 25 catches were fifth most in a season after Demaryius Thomas (46 in 2009, 39 in 2008), DeAndre Smelter (35 in 2014), Stephen Hill (28 in 2011) and Darren Waller (26 in 2014).
It’s unfortunate for Tech that quarterback Matthew Jordan hasn’t been able to take part fully in the 7-on-7 passing drills this summer, as he recovers from a foot injury suffered in spring practice, as they could all stand to develop as much familiarity with each other as possible.
There is a little uncertainty with the depth chart behind Jeune and Stewart, although wide receivers coach Buzz Preston believes that the Yellow Jackets can have a rotation that can go four or five deep.
Jalen Camp came on strong at the end of last season as a freshman and is in position to be the No. 3 receiver. Antonio Messick, going into his senior year, has the tools but has yet to realize his potential. Jair Hawkins-Anderson and Stephen Dolphus both redshirted last year and have to develop consistency (Hawkins-Anderson) and avoid injuries (Dolphus) to move up the depth chart. Incoming freshman Adonicas Sanders was an off-the-radar prospect but could be a surprise. Wide receivers playing as first-year freshmen is fairly common.
Factoid: Jeune needs just one class in the fall semester to earn his business administration degree.
Statistic: Stewart’s six catches in situations of third-and-10 or longer tied for seventh most in the ACC last season. Two of the six converted first downs.
Prediction: Jordan, the likely starter at quarterback, is not as adept a passer as Thomas, and it’s entirely possible that both Stewart and Jeune’s numbers will take a dip this season. A combined 40 catches and 800 yards, similar to last season, would be an impactful season. Camp, who didn’t catch any passes last season, ought to make a small impact in the passing game. This season more than most, Tech’s receivers may make their present felt with their blocking in the run game.
Return to myAJC.com for more of the series. This week: Wednesday, offensive line; Thursday, A-back
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.