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Raiders confident in receiving options for 2023

by | Jul 25, 2023 | Sports

Wylie East’s Terrell Washington Jr. was one of the top receivers in the area last season before graduation.

The graduating senior, who now attends the University of Iowa, won the District 9-6A MVP, 22 total touchdowns and over 1,200 all-purpose yards. Typically a team losing a player of that caliber means questions heading into next season, but not for Wylie East.

The Raiders still return two starters to the receiving core and have plenty of young talent stepping up ready to take on the mantle. Head coach Marcus Gold said he understands the challenges of replacing a talented player but feels good about the options at the team’s disposal.

“You lose Terrell Washington, that’s a big loss for us because he played multiple positions for us,” Gold said. “I’ve been on teams with one standout player before, and sometimes it makes it easier for defenses to scheme against you. We’re not tied to that and all of our guys feel comfortable making plays and spreading the ball around. We should be able to open up the playbook more.”

The two returning starters from last season are Kason Atkins and Alex Ainsworth, both rising seniors this season. Atkins was second on the team last season with 41 catches, 541 yards and also scored three touchdowns.

Working primarily in the slot in 2022, Atkins came up with several critical third-down conversions and was a major part of the offense in several big wins throughout the season.

“He’s an underdog for us,” Gold said. “He’s a very savvy player. He understands the offense well and understands reading coverages well. The most important thing is that quarterbacks trust him. When there’s a situation we haven’t made a play, quarterbacks gravitate toward guys they trust, and they know he’ll run the right routes and make good decisions.”

Ainsworth was the tallest and one of the fastest receivers on the team last season, hauling in five touchdowns on 21 catches and 19 yards per catch. His ability to stretch opposing defenses is key to open up plays for Atkins and others over the middle of the field.

“He is a threat downfield,” Gold said. “He’s gotten more athletic this summer and has made some incredible catches in 7-on-7 work. His ability to get downfield and go up and make some catches at the highest point is huge for us.”

Filling out the roster, Wylie East has senior Joseph Wyatt and several young options taking on bigger responsibilities. Sophomores Amarean Porter and King Baribe and freshman Amir Porter will all compete for reps next season.

Wyatt’s older brother Jordan is a former East and SMU standout who is the defensive backs coach on the staff. While he’s got the pedigree, he’s put the work in this offseason and impressed the coaching staff.

“He’s made the biggest leap this spring for us in the weight room,” Gold said. “He’s a late bloomer and we kind of wish we had another year with him. We’ve challenged him to block and we moved him to inside receiver and it seemed to work for us. He’s looked very confident in that position now and I’ve continued to push our coaches that we’ve got a lot of talented players, sometimes a position change is what it takes to unlock their potential. I played with Von Miller at Texas A&M, and when they moved him to defensive end it changed his entire career. It reminds me to always think about personnel.”

Amarean and Amir Porter moved into Wylie East with their dad on the coaching staff. Amarean stands at 6-feet tall and caught two touchdowns last season at Frisco Liberty. With offers already from UNLV, Miami and Michigan State before his sophomore season, the sky is the limit for the young wideout.

“We have a few players with good top-end speed, but we don’t have that burst,” Gold said. “He’s really good off the line of scrimmage and can get by people in a hurry. When you think of a typical Division I receiver, he’s somebody you think can be that type of guy. He’s a natural-born receiver.”

His brother Amir might be a few inches taller than Amarean and is similarly gifted athletically after starring in eighth-grade football last season. While it’s still to be determined if he’ll play varsity in his first year of high school, the coaching staff recognizes his potential.

“We’re excited about both of those kids,” Gold said. “He’s got incredible talent in his own right.”

Baribe was one of the top players on the freshman team last season, leading the team in touchdowns. Coach Gold said he’s really explosive and dangerous with the ball in his hands, something the Raiders need next season.

With as many as six options at receiver for next season, Wylie East feels like it can compete with anyone in the area at the skill position. They proved that by competing in the championship round of the state 7-on-7 tournament and hope that confidence with lead to success on Friday nights.

“It’s easy to get linemen to block, that’s what they sign up to do,” Gold said. “Even a guy like Terrell only had five or six catches a game. The key for these guys is what will they do when the ball isn’t in their hands. They have to block well, run the right routes and make sure they’re doing everything they can to help each other and make explosive plays.”

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