This is the second in a series of positional previews for Carroll College, a run of stories that will run through the team's season opener Aug. 31 at Montana Tech.
It’s most likely the Saints’ deepest roster spot.
And if you believe Carroll’s coaches -- and why wouldn’t you? -- the young receivers are going to have a big impact this season, too.
Wide receivers should make plenty of plays for Carroll. The Saints’ top pass catcher is Connor Fohn, the deep threat that seemed to haul in a long pass once per game last season, returning for his junior season. Fohn caught 61 passes for 887 yards and nine touchdowns a season ago. Fohn is the indisputable top threat for the Saints this season, but the coaching staff is praising their other receivers coming into the season.
Troy Arnston, who many called the best Saints route runner a season ago, was second behind Fohn in catches and yardage. Arnston finished with 25 catches for 359 yards and two touchdowns.
Beyond the top of the stats leaders from last season, Carroll coaches and starting quarterback Tanner Gustavsen have been pleased with the offseason development of Joe Farris and Paul Hart. The sophomores are expected to contribute in big ways to the offense, and also benefit from coverage when defenses key in Fohn.
“I think just spending a lot of time with the wide receivers,” Gustavsen said. “Every other day we try to get out here and throw routes and spot throw some things and talk over the play book a little bit. I think that and getting in sync with them has been a big part of the summer.”
The new receivers won’t be the only release valve for Gustavsen, either. Eric Dawson is entering the season healthy after suffering an injury which cut his 2016 campaign short. The 6-foot-1 athletic tight end gives the Saints a viable pass catcher from the position, which they didn’t always have a year ago. Dawson’s drawn comparisons to former Saints great Bubba Bartlett. Dawson will be flanked by Connor McGree, who finished with five catches for 36 yards and a touchdown a season ago.
“Paul Hart and Joe Farris, I think, have done a great job with the receiving core and catching the ball,” Saints coach Mike Van Diest said. “It’s nice having Eric Dawson coming back and catching the ball well.”
Nick Howlett called the amount of weapons in his offense a great problem to have. The coordinator anticipates an offense that will utilize all sectors of the field, and key in on mismatches when they present themselves.
“Hopefully we’ll give some defensively coordinator fits by who do they take away?” Howlett said. “Some of the explosiveness of Fohn should help some of those guys out, too.”
All things considered, the Saints are expecting to improve on their offensive marks from 2016. The team was tied for fifth in scoring (24 points per game) and owned fifth place for total passing yards per game (212).
And the Saints’ defense could be primed to be even better, too. Van Diest said the depth of the receiving corps has challenged his season this preseason, simulating the quality of receivers his Saints will face on Saturdays.
Carroll has the talent, and on Aug. 31 against Montana Tech, the Saints get to show what they can do.