The Washington Times - December 30, 2007, 09:20PM
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\ Maryland wide receiver Isaiah Williams (pictured above) made plenty of comments after Friday’s Emerald Bowl – some on the mark, some probably ill-advised coming from a starting wideout who dropped three passes that night and had just scored his first touchdown of the season a few hours earlier. \ \ \ But between wondering about coach Ralph Friedgen’s play-calling and ripping the lousy sod at AT&T; Park, he spoke of where things would head next season.\ \ \ “Honestly, we’re probably going to have to go in a whole new direction,” Williams said. “I think that’s what coach [Ralph] Friedgen is trying to do.”\ \ \ That was already apparent because James Franklin was hired Dec. 23 as the Terps’ offensive coordinator and assistant head coach. And it was made even more obvious today when Friedgen dismissed receivers coach Bryan Bossard after three seasons.\ \ \ A team spokesman said Friedgen has not decided what Franklin’s position assignment will be, but it stands to reason a guy who was a receivers coach in his first stint in College Park will be a possibility to do it again. It also leaves one vacancy and three responsibilities (special teams coordinator, tight ends and wide receivers) for Friedgen to figure out this offseason.\ \ \ As for Bossard – a good guy who had the uneviable task of working most of the 2006 season with three viable receivers and a lot of true freshmen and walk-ons – it probably isn’t a stretch to say he’s out of a job because no one emerged to complement Darrius Heyward-Bey this season.\ \ \ Here’s a little look at the Terps’ production from their receivers over the last two season, with catches, yards and touchdowns included:\

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\ PLAYER A\ 2006: 45-694-5\ 2007: 51-786-3\

\ PLAYER B\ 2006: 28-379-3\ 2007: 25-395-1\

\ PLAYER C\ 2006: 34-396-2\ 2007: 19-173-1\

\ PLAYER D\ 2006: 1-1-0\ 2007: 26-379-0\

\ Well, you can probably guess Player A is Heyward-Bey. He improved a little bit this season, especially after Chris Turner took over as the starting quarterback after five games.\ \ \ The problem is with B and C. Player B is Isaiah Williams, who promised this season would be his white Bronco and it instead turned into a sputtering Geo Metro. Player C is Danny Oquendo, who missed the last four games with a knee injury. He was on pace for 27 catches, 250 yards and maybe an extra touchdown over 13 games before he went down.\ \ \ (Player D is an amalgam of complementary players; in 2006, his name was “Drew Weatherly.” This year, it was three redshirt freshmen and a walk-on).\ \ \ But back to the main guys. As Dennis Green said so famously, they were who we thought they were. Heyward-Bey gets something of a pass because of the QB issues and a strong second half. But as Ralph might intone, Oquendo is an “it-is-what-it-is” player: A smart, sure-handed slot receiver who isn’t going to burn a major-college defensive back with what limited speed he possesses.\ \ \ Williams is the greater enigma. He’s a big target (6-foot-3) but despises the physical aspects of the position. He talks a great game, but his season-defining moment was the drop of a near-certain score in the opener that hung with him for weeks and wasted what was probably Jordan Steffy’s best throw of the season.\ \ \ I’d argue Williams’ development – or lack thereof – was the most obvious on-field concern that contributed to Bossard’s firing. But there’s another factor in play, too: The receivers simply didn’t make that many plays.\ \ \ Heyward-Bey, Isaiah Williams, LaQuan Williams … none of them caught even 60 percent of the balls thrown their way. A lot of things go into that: Poorly thrown passes, good plays by defensive backs, dropped balls, poorly run routes. A lot of it’s on the wideouts, especially with numbers like this:\

\ Gresham\ Receptions: 3\ Targets: 3\ Catch %: 100.0\

\ Oquendo\ Receptions: 19\ Targets: 22\ Catch %: 86.4\

\ Cannon\ Receptions: 3\ Targets: 5\ Catch %: 60.0\

\ Heyward-Bey\ Receptions: 51\ Targets: 86\ Catch %: 59.3\

\ I. Williams\ Receptions: 25\ Targets: 46\ Catch %: 54.3\

\ L. Williams\ Receptions: 15\ Targets: 30\ Catch %: 50.0\

\ Lee-Odai\ Receptions: 5\ Targets: 11\ Catch %: 45.5\

\ Goldberg\ Receptions: 0\ Targets: 1\ Catch %: 0.0\

\ So what does that mean? Well, the superb website footballoutsiders.com offers up this chart describing which wideouts have created the most points above replacement this season in the NFL. Of the 15 most valuable wideouts in the league, only two freakish athletes (Terrell Owens and Chad Johnson) caught less than 60 percent of the balls thrown their way.\ \ \ Now, Maryland obviously isn’t the pros, but there’s a lesson there. When your wideouts don’t catch a decent percentage of balls thrown to them, you might not be able to make up for it even if your Jason Goodes (85 percent), Keon Lattimores (77.8 percent), Lance Balls (75 percent) and Joey Haynoses (68.2 percent) are sure-handed.\ \ \ So the task facing Franklin (along with a possible receivers coach hire if that doesn’t turn out to be Franklin’s specific bailiwick) is to get Heyward-Bey and the Amazing Pass-Catching Williamses to, well, catch some more passes.\ \ \ It sounds simple enough, but maybe that basic chore will be the whole new direction Isaiah Williams was talking about.\ \ \ – Patrick Stevens