By Paul Mroz
KINGSTON, R.I. – The strongest position group this year for Rhode Island offense might just be the wide receivers, as they return all major starters. The Rams currently have three players that could be a starting receiver on any team in the CAA, those being sophomore Aaron Parker (Brandywine, Md.), senior Harold Buckner III (Roanoke, Va.), and junior Khayri Denny (Hyattsville, Md.). Add in the veteran presence of redshirt junior Marven Beauvais (Cranston, R.I.) and a handful of impact freshmen, and the receiving corps is shaping up as an explosive group for 2017.
Leading the way for this group is Parker, who led the team in receiving yards, yards per reception and touchdown catches as a true freshman. Parker finished 2016 with 23 catches for 441 yards and 4 touchdowns. He produced his best game against Towson, in which he had 4 catches for 99 yards and a score. The 6-3 Parker averaged 19.2 yards per catch, showing the ability to stretch the defense over the top. He improved as the season moved along, catching touchdown passes in three of the final four weeks of the season. He averaged 64.8 receiving yards over that span.
Coming into the year after leading the team in receptions is the big-bodied Buckner. Entering his senior season, Buckner racked up 28 catches for a second best 411 yards and two scores. Buckner also set a career high against Maine in which he totaled nine catches for 141 yards, which was the Ram's best receiving performance in 2016.
Third in receiving yards last year was the quick and elusive Denny. Denny had a decent season in which he put out 25 catches for 356 yards. His best numbers came against Harvard, totaling five grabs and 103 yards receiving, which was his first career 100-yard game. The team's active leader in receptions, Denny has caught 53 passes for 759 yards over his first two seasons.
Also a part of Rhody's starting receiver rotation is Beauvais, the homegrown talent who has been a regular each of the last two seasons. His numbers dipped a bit last fall (11 catches for 162 yards), but Beauvais had a very strong Spring Camp, earning the Most Improved Player award for the offense. At 6-4 and 211 pounds, Beauvais is a matchup problem for the opposition with the potential to be an all-conference performer.
Returning as well are redshirt sophomore Trystan Casey (East Providence, R.I.), who saw the field in three games last season on special teams and redshirt freshman Ja'Quan Buffaloe (Conway, N.C.). Both could be factors in the return game and the regular offense.
The Rams had a strong recruiting season class for receivers, bringing in five incoming freshmen, and adding two more walk-ons during the spring. The new players are Isaiah Coulter (Brandywine, Md.), Ivory Frimpong (Centreville, Va.), Matt Pires (Lincolndale, N.Y.), Edward Lee (Washington, D.C.), Emerson Genovese (Mamaroneck, N.Y.), J.J. Mainville (Pawtucket, R.I.) and Jarell De Los Santos (Providence, R.I.).
Leading the way for the new receivers are Coulter, Frimpong and Pires. Coulter, who is the cousin of Aaron Parker, had 40 receptions for 755 yards and 14 scores in his senior season in high school. Frimpong brings big numbers with him as well, as he was a two-time All-Region selection in Virginia and had 37 catches for 682 yards in his senior year. Both players stand at 6-3, giving the Rams two more large targets in the passing game. In Coutler, Frimpong, Parker, Buckner and Beauvais, Rhode Island now has five receivers at 6-3 or taller, all of whom are expected to see the field.
While Pires (5-11) does not have the height of his fellow newcomers, he has electric speed that has the coaching staff excited. These three look to be the biggest threats to see the field as freshmen. A high school teammate of fellow incoming freshman and running back Messiah Horne, Pires led Somers High to the 2016 Class A state championship, earning All-State, All-Metro, All-League and All-County honors along the way. He averaged a whopping 32.5 yards per reception and 19.2 yards per rush en route to co-State Offensive Player of the Year honors. Pires scored a total of 25 touchdowns in 2016. Of his 27 receptions, 13 went for touchdowns. In the state championship game, he had 153 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns
With a combination of depth, size, speed and experience, the receiving corps should be the most potent seen in Kingston in a long time.
Check GoRhody.com Thursday for a look at the 2017 Linebackers.
Camp Preview: Size, Speed and Depth Makes Ram Receivers a Potent Group
By Paul Mroz