Entering the 2012 season, the biggest question mark of the Duquesne offense was who would step up and catch the football this season.
The Dukes lost over 90 percent of their receiving yards from a season ago, most notably Isaac Spragg and Connor Dixon, who combined for 99 receptions, 1,454 yards and 21 touchdowns a season ago.
While the current Duquesne receivers may not put up those types of numbers, they are getting production from the likes of Gianni Carter, Noel Oduho and Sean Brady, as the trio has been a big lift to a Duquesne team that has won four consecutive games.
“Those guys have been a big plus for us,” said Duquesne head coach Jerry Schmitt. “I’m very pleased with their progress. We knew they were talented, but the timing with the quarterback, the route running and doing it in a game situation were all question marks coming in. But they are sharing the ball and we have balanced catches across the board, so I have been very pleased.”
There’s no doubting the results have been there for the Dukes’ trio as three have combined for 70 catches, 891 yards and six touchdowns through five games so far this season, with Carter leading the way with 26 catches for 378 yards on the season.
What’s been the most impressive part is how all three have developed a comfort level with quarterback Sean Patterson so early into the season.
“Anytime you get a group of guys you aren’t used to, it takes some time to gel,” said Patterson. “They are starting to come into their own and become big playmakers on offense. I like the way we are coming together as an offense and Gianni, Sean and Noel are a huge part of that. I like where we are heading into the second half of the season.”
Patterson hasn’t shown a favorite and to the credit of his receivers, someone different has stepped up every week.
That includes Brady, who had a big second half in the Dukes come-from-behind victory against Saint Francis on Saturday.
The junior from Orchard Park, New York had a team high six catches for 95 yards, but stepped up big as Patterson’s favorite target on both the game-tying and game-winning drives in the fourth quarter.
“The game plan is that if your number is called then you have to step up and make plays,” said Brady. “Sean is very good at spreading the ball around so it keeps us all involved every week. We work very hard with him as a group to develop chemistry and I think early on it is paying off.”
Carter has led the Dukes in catches in two of Duquesne’s recent four victories, including a big fourth quarter in the Dukes first win of the season against Dayton. He’s shown signs of having the potential to become a big time receiving threat.
The Montana State transfer had to sit out last season but it gave him some time to work with his new quarterback.
“The chemistry is coming along great,” said Carter. “Duquesne has a history of having great receivers and we are next in line to sort of carry on that tradition. It’s our turn to step up and make plays and we have to continue to do so.”
So far, that seems like a very strong possibility as the Dukes have a very balanced offensive attack with Larry McCoy at running back. If the likes of Brady, Carter and Oduho continue to emerge as weapons on the outside, this Duquesne team could become a very tough one to matchup against.
“I like where they are headed as a group,” said Schmitt. “The good thing though is that they aren’t there yet. They can keep getting better and it will be nice to watch them become very good receivers.”
Photo Credit: NEC