11/21/2014

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Sports

No. 16 Fresno St. has depth at receiver

No. 16 Fresno St. has depth at receiver
Davante Adams catches a touchdown pass from Derek Carr on the first play of the game against UNLV's Kenneth Penny on Oct. 19, 2013. (AP Photo/The Fresno Bee, Mark Crosse)
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The records, praise and notoriety all pour down on Derek Carr as the most prolific passer in Fresno State history.

With his famous last name, heart-wrenching family story and NFL future, Carr has gotten almost all of the national attention that has been focused on the 16th-ranked Bulldogs (9-0, 6-0 Mountain West) as they close in on the first BCS berth in school history.

Yet Carr is the first to point out that none of those records or acclaim would be his if not for one of the nation's most talented receiving corps.

Davante Adams, Josh Harper and Isaiah Burse all rank in the top 25 in the nation in receptions this season, giving Carr more targets to choose from than defenses can gear their coverage toward.

"Our wide receiver bunch is the best that any college football team has," Carr said. "They can all probably go play in the league my brother was in. They are ridiculous, and the greatest thing about them is that they are all humble."

That group has helped put Carr right up with older brother David as one of the best quarterbacks ever for the Bulldogs. Carr leads the nation in touchdown passes, is second in yards passing per game and has set school career records for completions, yards passing and touchdowns this season.

He's has done it all while managing to keep his trio of talented receivers happy.

"They don't pout," offensive coordinator Dave Schramm said. "They don't worry about they're not getting theirs. They understand the deal that whoever we play is going to decide. They'll have to double somebody or double two of them and that's going to get the other one open. We'll make the defense pick their poison a little bit."

Adams leads the nation with 15 touchdown catches and is tied with Oregon State's Brandin Cooks for the most catches in the country with 91 for 967 yards.

He has 193 catches and 29 touchdowns in two college seasons and has become a willing blocker in Fresno State's wide-receiver screen game that replaces the running attack at times.

"Our coaches stress blocking and it's as important as catching the rock," he said. "You have to block for your team in order to get the ball as well. That's why we say, 'No block, no rock.'"

When teams have decided to try to take out Adams with double teams and rolled coverages, Harper has picked up the slack, like when he had 17 catches for 253 yards and two TDs earlier this month against Nevada.

"Davante and Isaiah take a lot of stress off of me and I can just go out there and make the catches and Derek throws me the ball," Harper said. "A lot of teams focus on Davante. He's a great player, as well as Isaiah. I just have to step in there when I'm called upon."

Burse does most of his damage out of the slot and has 61 catches for 652 yards and three TDs.

Only 21 teams have more catches than the 220 combined for the Fresno State trio, who all have futures as NFL players.

Former NFL scout John Middlekauf, who was on the Fresno State coaching staff before these three receivers arrived, projected Adams as a potential second-round pick, Harper as a mid-round selection and Burse as an undrafted free agent who would likely make a team and contribute.

"The amount of receiver talent there is just insane," Middlekauf said. "Not many schools have as much talent when you combine all three."

The Bulldogs were fortunate to get a talented group like this. Harper, the son of former NFL linebacker Willie Harper, was originally slated to go to California before changing his mind and heading to Fresno.

Adams didn't start playing high school football at Palo Alto High School until his junior year because he broke his left arm three times in high school. He was not heavily recruited because of poor grades and uncertainty about whether he would play football or basketball.

Adams was a hoops star at Palo Alto, playing in the backcourt for one season with Jeremy Lin's younger brother, Joseph. Those skills from the court help in the end zone, where Adams excels at being able to out-jump cornerbacks for passes.

"It helps a lot," he said. "Basketball is played in the air for the most part. I was always taught by my dad and coaches to high point the ball on rebounds. It's second nature."
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