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BG looks to reload at receiver

As the Falcons offense has steadily risen to be one of the most dominant in college football over the past few seasons, BG fans have grown accustomed to watching the likes of wide receivers Cole Magner, James Hawkins and Cornelius McGrady stretch the field in the spread offense.

But as the Falcons are currently hard at work in spring practice, those three are out of the picture as their eligibility has past and graduation nears.

How do you replace a combined 123 receptions, 1,308 yards and 10 touchdowns from 2004?

This task will be left to Derrick Lett, Brandon Jones and Kenneth Brantley, also known as the new trio to help fuel the Falcons well-oiled offensive machine.

“I expect not much let up from where we left off,” said Falcons head coach Gregg Brandon, who is entering his third year as BG’s coach. “These kids are experienced players as far as being in the program and knowing the system. They haven’t got a lot of battle scars, but that’s college football. When a guy graduates and moves on, the next guys got to be ready to play.”

Though their lack of game day experience is glaring – they combined last season for five catches for 63 yards and a touchdown — their confidence needs no boost.

“It’s finally our time to step up and we know we have big roles to fill, but we know we all can definitely do it,” said Brantley, who is entering his junior year.

“It’s a great opportunity,” said Jones, a junior who is slated to fill Magner’s spot in the receiving core. “(After) learning from the older guys the last couple years, now it’s our time and the balls in our court. I think we all just need to stay focused and it’s time to perform.”

Wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni has seen his previous receivers excel at a top level and believes the past production has laid the foundation for the future.

“We try to build a culture here with those wide receivers. The culture has been established the last four years by the kids that left and there is an expectation that’s there and (the new receivers) know it,” he said.

It also doesn’t hurt to have starting quarterback Omar Jacobs, who threw for over 4,000 yards last season and 34 of his 41 TD passes were to wide receivers. Having last year’s MAC offensive player of the year back with a full season under his belt makes the transition much smoother and simplifies the game for them.

“(Omar) makes the game seem so fun and so easy,” Lett said. “You know when you get open, all you need is a little slot to get open and Omar’s going to put it there.”

Jones is roommates with Jacobs and credits Jacobs personality as a key to easing the receivers into their roles.

“When he comes on the field, he’s all about business and off the field he’s also a good guy. It’s more comfortable knowing that you’ve got a real good guy behind you,” he said.

The pressure to perform and make an impact immediately is relieved some since Charles Sharon and Steve Sanders will be back to lead the way. Sharon led the team last year with 15 touchdowns and 1,070 yards on 66 catches. Sanders had a breakout season as well, becoming a deep threat for the Falcons as he amassed 55 receptions for 984 yards and 8 touchdowns.

While Sharon and Sanders will be the top two receivers in BG’s arsenal, these three receivers are expected to produce and leave no trace of a decline in production.

“In a spread offense, they know if they don’t perform we’re gonna get exposed and not win as many football games,” Azzanni said.

“They’re so hungry to play and they’ve watched those other kids get the accolades and break all these records, and they want that too.”

With what Jones, Lett and Brantley have seen happen in this offense over the years, and with their given talent, everything they want is there for the taking.

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