Jamison Crowder -- seen here catching the touchdown that sealed Duke's sixth win last year -- knows a thing or two about big-time players. Credit: CHUCK LIDDY
DURHAM--There are no true freshmen on Duke’s preseason depth chart at wide receiver, but a few of the youngest players have caught the attention of Jamison Crowder.
Crowder, who led Duke with 1,074 receiving yards and eight touchdowns last season (on 76 receptions) was asked about Johnell Barnes and listed his speed and quickness, especially at getting off the press and jam at the line of scrimmage, as his most impressive traits.
Despite not yet catching a pass for Duke, Barnes has already made quite an impression on quarterback Anthony Boone.
“He’s the most extroverted,” Boone said of Barnes last month in Greensboro. “He’ll pull me aside and say, ‘listen, I’m going to be the best receiver you’ve got.’ Or ‘hey, listen, throw the ball to me.’
“First day he stepped foot on campus, he had a point to prove. He wants to prove a point, and I don’t blame him. He’s a receiver.”
When asked Monday if there were any other standouts, Crowder was quick with a name.
“Ryan Smith, one of the new guys that came in from (Las Vegas) Bishop Gorman high school, his speed and quickness also, along with great hands,” Crowder said. “He impressed me a lot, too.”
Boone and Crowder spent the latter part of the summer working with the young freshmen and the rest of the offense during player-led workouts. In addition to Crowder, Duke will likely start sophomore Max McCaffrey, the most introverted of the group, Boone said, and redshirt junior Issac Blakeney in the slot. Blakeney’s size—6-foot-6, 235 pounds—has Boone excited.
“He’s not scared to go get the ball,” Boone said.
Redshirt freshman Anthony Nash will also be in the mix at receiver for the Blue Devils, as will 6-foot-7 Erich Schneider in the slot. Unlike last year, when seniors Conner Vernon and Desmond Scott, along with Crowder, took the lion’s share of the catches, there should be opportunities for young receivers to, as Boone put it, “show out” and display their talents.
“Wide receivers are all in a sense cocky and want to get their shine,” Boone said. “Every receiver in the country is like, ‘hey, get me the ball, I’m open. Everybody is open all the time.”