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UConn football 2023 position preview: Wide receiver

A bunch of experienced transfers promise to boost a unit that struggled to make a difference last season.

Ian Bethune

UConn has had a lot of change at the wide receiver position from last offseason. Aaron Turner and Keelan Marion transferred out. But three new, experienced players have joined the team, and they’re all on the two-deep depth chart.

This re-shaped receiver unit is looking to take a step forward with new starting quarterback Joe Fagnano. He’s had a chance to develop chemistry with the new Huskies and returning players, of which Cam Ross is listed as a starter, while Kevens Clercius and Kylish Hicks are in rotational roles. Transfers Geordon Porter and Brett Buckman are the top two outside receivers, according to the Week 1 depth chart.

Last year UConn threw the ball on around one-third of its offensive snaps. That number is expected to increase this year, to the benefit of the receivers.

Here’s a rundown of the guys in the room:

# 7 - Cam Ross - Redshirt Junior

He was 2019’s breakout player, leading the Huskies in receiving yards with 723, but Cam Ross hasn’t seen much game action since. UConn canceled 2020 and then Ross suffered early-season injuries that kept him mostly on the sidelines for 2021 and 2022.

Four years later, it’s hard to know exactly what to expect from the junior. Still, he’s among the most “proven” players on the roster from an FBS production perspective and should have a solid role.

Ross is listed as a starter in the slot, though he will certainly be pushed by a lot of different guys for playing time. The Delaware native came to UConn from St. John’s High in Washington DC and has two older brothers who played college football at the University of Maryland.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

#16 - Kevens Clercius - Redshirt Junior

The Montreal, QC native is UConn’s leading returning receiver, with 288 yards on 24 receptions in 2022. After posting 260 yards in 2021 he wasn’t able to improve on those numbers and may end up in a smaller role in 2023. That said, the passing attack may be a bit more prolific, and now that he’s not the focus of opposing secondaries, perhaps his numbers could improve.

Like Ross, but for different reasons, Clercius remains an unknown quantity for the Huskies. With a true freshman QB and a run-first attack in 2022, it might not be fair to judge his production at face value. He’s certainly capable of being a member of the rotation and has the height and strength to potentially be the red-zone threat in a WR room that is on the smaller side.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

#3 - Geordon Porter - Grad Student

Porter spent four years at Arizona State, playing sparingly with 14 receptions over three seasons. He then transferred to New Mexico, where he caught 22 balls for 312 yards with two touchdowns in five starts last year.

Described as a speedy and tall receiver, Porter has been named the starter at the “X” outside receiver position. He may be the group’s top performer when it’s all said and done.

# 10 - Brett Buckman - Grad Student

Buckman is the Week 1 starter at the “Z” or flanker position and reportedly has only dropped one ball in his entire career, according to Mora. He comes to UConn from FCS Delaware, where he was a walk-on for the Blue Hens before developing into a reliable receiver. In his final season there, the New Jersey native caught 39 passes for 470 yards with one touchdown.

This year, Buckman could be a reliable target for Fagnano. He’s established himself as a sure-handed, cerebral player according to his coaches and teammates.

#18 - Kylish Hicks - Redshirt Freshman

Hicks has drawn attention for his play in organized activity this off-season and could have seen playing time last year if not for an injury, Mora said. He’s Porter’s primary backup on the outside and has been seen making plays throughout fall camp. The 6-footer from Maryland has been tabbed by many as a potential breakout player from this group.

#13 - James Burns - Grad Student

Like Buckman, Burns was a moderately productive player at the FCS level. At Austin Peay last year, he caught 39 balls for 517 yards with five touchdowns. The 5-foot-9 speedster and former team captain at Rocky River (NC) High started his college career at the FBS level at Miami of Ohio, where he had a remarkable freshman campaign. That year, Burns had 506 yards on just 20 receptions for a 25.3 ypc, and promises to bring that speed and big-play ability to the Husky offense.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog