Editor’s Note: This is the first part in an eight-part series chronicling each of Carson-Newman football’s positions. Wide receivers coach Kevin Day bats leadoff with his position group.
JEFFERSON CITY — Carson-Newman’s top five receivers from last season are all back. In fact, the Eagles return 90 percent of their receptions and 92 percent of their receiving yards from a year ago.
“We’ve got a lot of returners and guys who were involved in the offense last year coming back. That’s definitely a good thing,” Day said. “At the same time, we’ve got a good mix of new guys coming in. They are a talented bunch, and there’s a good bit of athleticism there.”
Carson-Newman’s leading receiver last year was Quinton Phillips. Phillips caught 17 passes for 331 yards. He averaged 19.5 yards per catch and 30.1 yards per game. He scored twice.
“Q is the senior leader of the room,” Day said. “He graduated early and is working on his master’s degree. Q brings experience and a ‘this is how you do it’ role to the room. He has the ability to tell others that this is how it’s done.”
His top performance in terms of yardage came at Tusculum (Oct. 27) when he snagged 3 passes for 74 yards and a career-long 57 yard touchdown catch against the Pioneers. He had his most receptions against Wingate (Sept. 15) when he snared 3 passes for 66 yards. Phillips caught at least one pass in every contest but the Newberry game.
Devon Moore, Romain Kelly, Korey Waters and Ryan Randall round out a unit that gives Carson-Newman that ability to go five wide with capable if the Eagles’ decided to make the underworld freeze over.
“Each one brings something different to the table,” Day said. “They all can do something really good, but they all also have something they need to work on. Romain is a really well-rounded player who does a lot of things really well. Devon has next-level speed. That’s what makes the group interesting.
“Each player is a piece of the puzzle. When you put them all together, they complete the puzzle, but each one might be missing a piece that they need to work to add to. I think grit is a great word to describe these guys and the way they have to play. They have to have fortitude to deal with adversity and what are they going to do to make up for the things that just can’t be made up for.”
Moore caught 9 passes for 152 yards and a score last year to rank second on the team in receptions and yards. However, he is more known for his exploits on the track. He was named the South Atlantic Conference’s Outdoor Track Athlete of the Year. Moore was a two-time bronze medalist and two-time All-American following his performance at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championship Meet in Kingsville, Texas.
He finished third in both the 100 and 200 meter dashes at the event. His 10.27 in the qualifying round of the 100 registered as the second fastest time of his career and the third fastest time in league history. He set a new Carson-Newman record time for the 100-meter dash when he posted a 10.12 at the Tennessee Relays.
As a freshman, Kelly was Carson-Newman’s third-leading receiver, appearing in all 11 games with 10 starts. He grabbed 8 passes for 127 yards and a score. He caught his lone touchdown against Wingate (Sept. 15) on a 33-yard catch, his long reception of the season. His only game with multiple pass receptions was on Oct. 13 against Mars Hill. He hauled in 2 completions for 29 yards. Kelly averaged 15.9 yards per catch.
“One thing that’s important to note is that Coach Turner has put an emphasis on throwing the ball this year. However, if Carson-Newman has to throw the football 60 times in a game, it’s probably not going to be a very good game,” Day said. “There has to be a balance there. We want these guys to understand how their role in the run game influences their role in the pass game. Romain is a talented receiver, but Romain can block like none other. He loves contact and he loves to get after people. He’s a grinder in how he works for it.”
Two transfers round out the receiving corps in former James Madison Duke Braxton Westfield and West Florida Argonaut JJ Lewis, both of whom red-shirted at their previous collegiate stops.
“No one knows about Braxton yet,” Day said. “You’ll see him and you’ll take note of who he is because he looks the part. He does some things very well and he’ll be one to watch this year.”
In high school, Westfield was part of a Christ Church Episcopal team that set the state record for consecutive wins (55). He was a member of teams that went to Class A state titles as a sophomore and junior and state quarterfinals as a senior. A tri-sport athlete who also played basketball and ran track, he had more than 2,000 yards receiving and 16 touchdowns in his high school career.
Meanwhile, Lewis was a three-year letter winner at wide receiver for coach Andy Schmitz at J.W. Mitchell, located northwest of Tampa. He hauled in 38 receptions for 604 yards and 13 touchdowns as a senior.