For all the question marks UConn football has entering the season, the Huskies sport a strong group of wide receivers. They have a solid mix of veterans, youth and skillsets, which will help the offense be more versatile and unpredictable so long as David Pindell can get them the ball.
Mayala is the senior leader of the group and arguably UConn’s best weapon. He missed three games due to a foot injury last season but still led the team with 43 catches, 615 yards and seven touchdowns.
He is also a dangerous down-the-field threat, reeling in catches of 80, 60 and 45 yards while averaging 14.3 yards per reception, third on the team (minimum 10 catches).
Barring injury, Mayala will be the team’s top receiver and should improve on his stats from last year even with a strong supporting cast around him.
It has been an up-and-down three seasons at UConn for Beals. After a great freshman season in which he caught 24 passes for 275 yards, he only managed seven catches as a sophomore. However, he rebounded last year with a solid campaign of 30 catches for 266 yards.
It’s difficult to project what role Beals will have in the offense this season. He should produce closer to his freshman and junior years but may not see as many balls thrown his way due to the emergence of some younger players. However, he’s proven himself as a capable receiver at this level and is a solid option for the Huskies.
The player most likely to take targets away from Beals is Skanes. Last season out of the slot, he set UConn’s record for the most receptions by a freshman with 35.
At 5-foot-11, 175 pounds, he isn’t the biggest guy but more than makes up for it with his run-after-the-catch ability. With his speed and agility, Skanes can turn short catches into intermediate and big gains once he gets the ball into his hands.
Skanes projects as the starting slot receiver and should only get better after spending an entire year both working in the new system and catching passes from Pindell.
While Skanes set the freshman record for receptions, Dixon set the freshman record for receiving yards with 360 on 33 catches. His best game of the season came in the finale against Cincinnati, where he caught eight passes for 67 yards.
Dixon has a rare blend of size (6-foot-3) and speed while also having the hands and leaping ability to catch nearly anything thrown his way. He can keep defenses honest over-the-top, opening the short and intermediate routes for other receivers. Dixon also proved effective on end-arounds, taking nine handoffs for 41 yards.
Like his fellow classmate Skanes, Dixon will benefit from a full year in the offense and has the talent to turn into an elite college receiver even as just a redshirt sophomore.
Donaldson broke out against East Carolina to the tune of six catches for 108 yards and two touchdowns, followed up by a five-catch, 50-yard performance two weeks later against Memphis. But other than those two games, Donaldson wasn’t heard from much, catching just five passes the remaining 10 games.
While that’s certainly not a bad year from a freshman, he needs to prove he can be a consistent college receiver. With the number of players on the depth chart ahead of him, it may be tough for Donaldson to see the field this season. However, if injuries do hit, he should be a solid option off the bench for the Huskies.
In his first year at UConn, Buss didn’t do much. He only caught one pass in the last game of the season and didn’t even see the field much on offense.
It’s hard to blame him, though. His mother was sick and, sadly, passed away during the season, so football was far from his mind in that time.
However, he exploded in the spring game with 116 receiving yards and stood out with his elusiveness. When the ball was in Buss’s hands, the defense struggled to bring him down even when defenders were draped all over him.
It may be hard for the coaching staff to keep him off the field in some capacity and he could see time at running back due to the lack of depth. But wherever he lines up, Buss is the leading candidate to have a breakout season.
There’s a handful of freshmen in redshirts Garrison Burnett and Cameron Hairston along incoming players Elijah Jeffreys and Heron Maurisseau. But with the depth at the position, it will be difficult for any of them to see the field this early.
Donovan Williams didn’t catch any passes last season but was used as a gadget player on trick plays and wildcat formations. With John Dunn now leading the offense, it remains to be seen if those plays will still be utilized but at the very least, Williams is one of the team’s top special teamers.
Other players include redshirt junior TJ Vernieri, sophomore Justin Morehead and freshman Michael Freeman.