Kyle Allen's best tools in 2017 might be a talented set of receivers. And by set, we mean two, other than those guys there just aren't a lot of known commodities. Linell Bonner and Steven Dunbar are known said proven commodities for Allen and Offensive Coordinator Brian Johnson, but beyond that and with D'Eriq King possibly moving to quarterback for 2017 and key pieces graduating, depth is an issue. So who will Allen be throwing to next season? Let's take a stab at it.
Linell Bonner is Elite
Linell Bonner had one of the best receiving seasons in college football last year. Bonner, used primarily in the slot, was targeted a team high 134 times and caught 98 of those targets for an excellent 73% catch rate. According to stat guru Bill Connelly, Bonner's success rate on catches was 56%. (According to Connelly, the terms of success in college football are plays that gain 50 percent of necessary yardage on first down, 70 percent on second down, and 100 percent on third and fourth down.)
Among college receivers only Louisiana Tech's Trent Taylor had a higher catch rate with as many or more targets than Bonner. In other words, from his slot position, Bonner was an elite target for Greg Ward Jr. and the rest of the Houston quarterbacks in 2016. His cumulative stats put him in the 98th percentile of all receivers with ten or more targets.
Here's what you'll notice about Bonner on tape, first he's a physical slot. He plays bigger than his 6'0 202 pound frame. He's able to create separation by using his body effectively. He catches balls in traffic and doesn't need a clean area to catch the ball. The question is whether Bonner moves outside from his slot position to take over for the departed Chance Allen? Bonner missed a fair amount of the spring due to injuries so its anyone's guess where he plays. He'll be a focal point for Cougar opponents and we'll see how he responds to the extra attention.
Steven Dunbar on the Outside
Where Bonner made played inside, Steven Dunbar played primarily on the edge. Dunbar is physically taller at 6'3 and 210 with great length. His catch rate was a respectable 61%, above the national average of 58.9%. His success rate was 42%. Dunbar's 13 yards a catch leads the returning Cougar pass catchers.
On tape, Dunbar is a vertical threat who uses his arm length to his advantage. You'd like to see Dunbar become a more complete route runner and use his size advantage more to aid in getting separation. There's a nuance to route running and creating windows, being fast isn't enough at a certain point. Dunbar has the physical gifts and good hands, now if he can master using his length and positioning to create space he becomes a big time threat.
After Bonner and Dunbar the talent and efficiency level of Houston's receivers falls off substantially. The silver lining would be that D'Eriq King could return to the position and use his seemingly immense playmaking skills as a receiver/return man. King sat out the spring with a knee injury but the indications were that he was going to be given a chance to play quarterback in fall camp. King, for the record, was targeted 32 times and caught 29 balls for a 90% catch rate. It's a small sample size, but it's not that small. King is a playmaker with very good hands and with those hands on the ball he's a very elusive runner.
Isaiah Johnson is another player who is playing a different position than receiver in the fall. He moved to corner and could be a big time player on the defensive side, but his absence thins the offensive side. The Cougars will miss tight end Tyler McCloskey and his swiss army knife features. McCloskey was a very good downfield blocker and versatile enough to play in the slot. On the injury front, Houston lost Marquez Stevenson to an ACL for 2017. His minutes will be missed.
Keith Corbin was a pup in 2016 but at 6'2 and a frame to carry some good weight he'll be counted on to step up in the fall. He caught half of his targets in 2016, not ideal but he was young. In the spring game he looked to have made some strides, but he's still an unknown in terms of his ability to give the Cougars a consistent option.
Derek McLemore looked good in the spring but he's been MIA for most of his Cougar career with just two catches in three seasons after a redshirt. John Leday played bigger minutes in 2015 than in 2016 when he mustered four catches.
Houston signed one listed wide receiver in their 2017 recruiting class, Jeremy Singleton from Brother Martin in New Orleans. Tre'von Bradley was listed as a athlete and played quarterback at Cleburne, but he may be more suited for running back or safety.
Houston's receiving corps, like several other positions will be short on numbers in 2017, but Bonner and Dunbar give them two very good front line players. After that, well someone has to play right?