As Bowling Green continues spring practice this week, the search for a replacement for star receiver Freddie Barnes also continues.
Barnes set the single-season record for receptions last year with 155. But coach Dave Clawson said Barnes' record-setting effort was a surprise to everyone because the Falcons opened fall camp with more options at receiver.
“We did not go into the year last year thinking that Freddie Barnes was going to catch 155 balls,” Clawson said. “That kind of came about because of necessity because we lost three [receivers] for the year and we lost a fourth one for half the year. We were thinking he was probably going to catch 90.”
Seniors Tyrone Pronty and Calvin Wiley, and junior Derek Brighton were supposed to complement Barnes in the starting receiving corps last year, but during fall camp Wiley suffered a season-ending knee injury and Brighton suffered a season-ending foot injury. Pronty injured his foot during the season-opener and missed the rest of the year.
Junior Ray Hutson suffered a knee injury against Ohio midway through the season and was limited throughout the year.
“Those guys were starting last year and would have played 60, 70 plays a game,” Clawson said. “So now we get those guys back.”
Bowling Green returns three offensive starters from 2009 -- running back Willie Geter and offensive linemen Tyler Donahue and Ben Bojicic. Clawson said 43 of the team’s 85 scholarship players would have four years of eligibility remaining entering the 2010 season. And while he thinks this will be a more talented, stronger and faster team that last year, getting all of those young, inexperienced players on the same page is going to be a process.
But in terms of wide receiver, Clawson is confident. Even though the Falcons don’t return many starters or much experience on offense, all four of the receivers who were going to be counted on in 2009 will be back for 2010. And the Falcons return Adrian Hodges, who was the team’s third-leading receiver last year.
Of course Clawson knows that finding another gem like Barnes will be difficult. Barnes caught more passes in 2009 than he did in his previous three seasons with the team combined. But the players believe in Clawson’s system and have the ability to be a better receiving group than it was a year ago.
“Last year, we graduated some players that were very productive players for us, obviously Tyler and Freddie,” Clawson said. “You’re not going to replace their production with two people. It’s going to have to be a collective effort.
“That’s why our spring is so important. We have to come out of the spring a much more experience, a much more savvy football team than we go into it.”