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Gold and Black Illustrated, Vol 27, Digital 5

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Page 38 of 87

GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 27, ISSUE 5 39 especially because they're versatile and can occu- py so many spots. It'd seem to make sense, too, to allow Markell Jones to split into the slot, taking advantage of his skills in space, which also would allow D.J. Knox, Richie Worship and Tario Fuller, the top three backs in the spring, to play roles in the backfield. All offer dif- ferent, but important, elements with Knox's "pit bull" mentality and toughness, Worship's bullying running style and Fuller's elusiveness. … The most intriguing potential playmaker — and a big sto- ryline of the spring — may be Jared Sparks. Though the redshirt freshman appeared to make strides as a quarterback — better accuracy, for one — Sparks flashed promise with the ball in his hands another way, as a receiver. Coaches had been impressed by Sparks' athleticism and natural ability, so he got reps there in the final two weeks after injuries piled up at the position. Sparks had displayed his ability in spurts on option reads at QB but coaches soon realized he could catch it, too. For an offense that desperately need weap- ons to emerge, Sparks clearly became one in a non-traditional way. … That's important because, unfortunately, there didn't seem to be many options at the "true" receiver spots. That posi- tion's general inability to grasp alignments and formations and run precise routes was disappoint- ing, though their general inability to make plays wasn't surprising. There simply aren't enough natural receivers on the roster, so seeing drop after drop and few big-time catches was expected. It'll be imperative, though, that the two with the most potential, senior Greg Phillips and redshirt freshman Jackson Anthrop, enter camp with a firm understanding of the offense. Phillips has the best hands of the group, and Anthrop may have more ability than any other current receiver to make the "wow" catch, even though he's not physically impos- Sparks Barclay Photos by Tom Campbell

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