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Replacing an all-conference wide receiver and one of the most dynamic all-purpose threats in the nation in Torrey Smith is no easy task, but it is one of the many questions hovering around the Maryland football program as summer practice nears.
The loss of Smith and senior Adrian Cannon, the teams' first and second leading receivers over the past two seasons, respectively, has left a gaping void for the Terrapins to fill. Among the candidates to shoulder the load in the passing game is Ronnie Tyler, the senior wideout who will battle for the starting WR-X position this summer opposite of Kevin Dorsey.
Tyler emerged as the team's best deep threat during the annual Red-White Spring Game when he racked up 99 yards on three catches, including a 65-yard score on the initial play from scrimmage. He had 13 receptions in 2010, totaling 149 yards and one touchdown. Tyler caught 28 balls in 2009.
The competition between Tyler and junior Kerry Boykins will be one of the position battles in the spotlight come August. Boykins and Tyler posted similar statistics last season, but Tyler lost his edge during the spring as he deal with a sprained ankle. Towards the end of spring practices, though, head coach Randy Edsall praised both the receivers for standing out.
"I like the ability that we have there [at wide receiver]," Edsall told reporters during a teleconference in April. "It's just a matter of guys really focusing and concentrating on enhancing not only their individual skills but making sure … they can all be on the same page [with the quarterbacks] and be on a better page come the fall."
At Wagener-Salley High School (S.C.), Tyler was a four-year letter winner and three-time all-state performer. As a senior he earned AP squad honors. Scout ranked Tyler no. 51 among running backs after a senior season in which he racked up over 550 yards on the ground and over 660 yards in the air, including seven touchdowns.
But as we mentioned in Our preview of quarterback Danny O'Brien, the offense likely will be predicated on spreading the ball around evenly, simply finding the open man rather than utilizing a go-to guy like Smith.
Yet uncertainty remains. Neither Quintin McCree, Dorsey, Boykins or Tyler caught more than 16 balls or surpassed the 188-yard mark in 2010, so perhaps Tyler's senior leadership and 2009 campaign will help him to stand out among the crop this summer.
How will that veteran leadership help? On third and fourth downs, Tyler has proven to be a clutch target. On those downs with at least three yards to go in 2010, Tyler had five receptions for 73 yards, including a touchdown. On third or fourth down with more than nine yards to go, he averaged 10 yards per catch, often from the slot position. Five of Tyler's 13 receptions have come on third downs, as he averaged nearly 15 yards per catch.
Who, if any, will emerge as the go-to receiver in the Terrapins' offense this season? It could be Dorsey, who has solidified a starting job heading into the summer. It could be Boykins, a junior who has displayed his potential during the spring.
Or it could be one of the few upperclassmen who, playing behind Smith and Cannon the last three seasons, has earned his stripes and possibly a starting gig come 2011. The depth chart is currently scripted in pencil, and Tyler has another summer to earn the job.