Thursday, November 8, 2012


Opinion: Help is on the way: WR Justin McCay part of Cavalry II

Transfer receiver Justin McCay breaks through a line of defenders to catch a pass during practice on Tuesday, April 10, 2012.

Transfer receiver Justin McCay breaks through a line of defenders to catch a pass during practice on Tuesday, April 10, 2012.



Transfer receiver Justin McCay breaks through a line of defenders to catch a pass during practice on Tuesday, April 10, 2012.

Every once in a while when interviewing an athlete, the mind moves to a state approaching déjà vu, but you know it’s not that, you know it’s not the mind playing tricks.

That feeling was triggered while interviewing Kansas University red-shirt receiver Justin McCay, who started his college career at Oklahoma. It felt so much like interviewing Keyshawn Johnson in 1995 when he was playing wide receiver for USC. Same friendly tone and eagerness to talk. Similar smile.

Johnson, chosen No. 1 overall in the 1996 NFL Draft by the New York Jets, went on to play in three Pro Bowls.

Now, let’s get one thing straight right off the bat here. We’re not comparing McCay the receiver to Johnson the receiver. If we’ve learned one thing this autumn, it’s that seeing is believing when it comes to forecasting greatness for celebrated high school players who fall short of expectations at one college and transfer to another.

Kansas coach Charlie Weis expected big things from what he called, “the cavalry.” Quarterback Dayne Crist, linebacker Anthony McDonald and tight end Mike Ragone transferred from Notre Dame. Defensive end Josh Willams arrived from Nebraska. Williams is the only one who remains listed No. 1 on the depth chart at his position. He has received high grades in other areas, but he has not yet sacked a quarterback.

McCay, a graduate of Bishop Miege High, is the back half of the battery Weis is counting on to ensure the second cavalry makes a far greater impact than the first.

Asked what words he would use if making a promo tape to get people excited about QB Jake Heaps, McCay was as up to the challenge as Johnson, now working for ESPN, would have been.

“Headline: The Mormon Cannon,” McCay said.

Circle the bases, Justin.

Like Heaps, a transfer from Brigham Young University, McCay has two remaining years of eligibility. Unlike Heaps, who set a slew of freshman passing records at a school with a strong quarterback tradition, McCay brings no statistical data with him from Oklahoma.

Well into his third football season of participating in daily Big 12 practices, here are McCay’s statistics: one catchy nickname created (The Mormon Cannon), no catches.

Recruited to Oklahoma to play either linebacker or wide receiver, McCay red-shirted his freshman season and was a reserve wide receiver in 2011. He appeared in three games, but did not get a reception.

Barry Every, a football recruiting analyst for, worked for Bobby Bowden at Florida State, Mack Brown at North Carolina and Mark Richt at Georgia.

Here is what Every wrote about McCay heading into his senior year of high school: “He is more of a straight-line receiver and lacks the lateral movement and body control you are looking for in a big-time receiver. McCay also needs to improve his route running, which should help create more separation.”

And: “In his heart, he would prefer to be a receiver, but his skill set screams linebacker all the way. He will most likely red-shirt, while he finds out where he best fits on his future football team.”

McCay still prefers to play wide receiver.

“I played both in high school,” he said. “I’d rather score a touchdown. It’s more exciting than just knocking people out.”

He said he still enjoys hitting people and has shown an aptitude for that as a gunner on the punt team.

But it’s at receiver that Kansas needs help as much as anywhere. No wide receiver on the team has caught a touchdown pass, nine games into the season.

What to make of McCay as a receiving prospect? Tough call.

The optimist reminds that Oklahoma recruited him, and the Sooners can afford to be picky. The pessimist points out that Bob Stoops didn’t play him, except in three games during mop-up time.

Not only that, Stoops had no problem signing his release and didn’t block his path to another Big 12 school that faces the Sooners on a yearly basis.

The pessimist also points out that whispers riding the wind from the practice fields during the spring described an unimpressive receiver who didn’t gain separation and too often dropped passes.

The optimist points out that Weis volunteered recently that McCay had a poor spring and looked “a little like just another guy,” but since then has made “a drastic improvement.”

After transferring from Oklahoma in time to attend second-semester classes last spring, McCay applied to the NCAA to be granted eligibility for the 2012 season, citing family concerns. The request and ensuing appeal were denied.

“Big difference,” McCay said of his practice performance in the fall, compared to last spring. “Big difference. More mature. I came in not knowing whether I was going to play, and that was weighing on me. Now I can just be me, do what I do and have fun. If it’s not fun, don’t do it.”

Asked to describe his greatest tool as a receiver, McCay said, “I’m pretty physical. I’m not the fastest guy, but I can run a little bit. I can open up on you.”

Asked to rate his hands, he said, “90, 95. They’re up there.”

That description again called to mind Keyshawn Johnson, a big, physical receiver who was not a burner. Johnson played at 6-foot-4, 212 pounds and McCay is listed at 6-2, 215.

McCay’s favorite NFL receiver?

“I like Keyshawn Johnson,” he said.

He likes him, but can he play like him? We’ll have to wait until September to start learning the answer to that.


BringBackMark 9 years, 2 months ago

We'll need to spread the field more for any receiver to have much success. I've seen some plays this year where all 11 players ended up to the right of the hash marks. Not hard to cover them that way. Having said that, the O-line will need to provide more time to allow separation. I think our receivers have gotten a bum rap this year.

Mike Hart 9 years, 2 months ago

"I think our receivers have gotten a bum rap this year.". That's one of the funniest things I've read this season. Have you watched ANY game this year? Our WR get NO separation, and the times they do.. they drop the ball. Granted, a FEW times ... WR have been missed by our QB, whose play has already been written about aplenty. But there is no certainly no "bum rap" that has been given to our WR play. I don't blame them per se... they are just not that talented.

BringBackMark 9 years, 2 months ago

Yes, I've watched nearly every brutal moment. I've also been a contributor to the WEF for nearly 30 years which I doubt many of you posters have. If you watch more than just the end of the play you'll understand what I'm saying. If you want to pass the ball in todays game you can't have all of your receivers bunched up within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage and all on the same side of the field. Perhaps these are blown routes but my guess is CW doesn't have confidence in protection to allow QB's time to let WR's get open.

You apparently have seen the six or eight dropped passes and judge the receivers on this. In fact, they've had nothing to catch and no time to separate. Study the game more and you'll understand what I'm saying.

vd 9 years, 2 months ago

Last year when they dropped passes it was Webb's fault. This year the receivers are bad.

Boouk 9 years, 2 months ago

Both years the QB's and WR's were bad. Next year we won't be bad at QB, and might not be bad at WR.

MoralVictory 9 years, 2 months ago

A physical receiver can also be a great downfield blocker for a strong running game, so let's hope McCay also brings that part of his game to the table in the fall. OU likes to bring their safeties up, maybe McCay can make them a little more tentative about flying to the ball?

Mike Hart 9 years, 2 months ago

Or... when we throw interceptions next year.. McCay will be there to lay a LB-type hit and make a defensive tackle on the pick return.

bigtex 9 years, 2 months ago

McCay was released from OU without any reservations. Stoops allowed him to go to any Big 12 team without sitting out, that should tell everybody there is a reason for that !!! The receivers currently got caught up in Weis love affair with his past players at Notre Dame. So the receivers had to deal with Crist missing receivers for touchdowns. So now Weis has to blame everybody but himself. His offensive calls reminds me of Chuck 3rd and Long. Run on 1st and 2nd down then throw on 3rd and long. Heap couldn't cut it at BYU. No cavalry coming !!!

Lucas Town 9 years, 2 months ago

I agree that there may be a reason that some of these guys were let go by their former teams so easily. Heaps is following the transfer rule and sitting out, but McCay could have played this year if it weren't for the NCAA making him sit out. I think we may be getting our hopes up for next year. I think we win more games 3 to 4 but it will be a couple of years before we go bowling. I just don't know where we find more W's next year. Who in our conference can we beat?

Mike Hart 9 years, 2 months ago

Uh.. that would be OSU and TX... not OU and TX.

Lucas Town 9 years, 2 months ago

don't like the reality of it all. just be real.

Sam Brockert 9 years, 2 months ago

Reality? He is no more correct saying they are going to suck as Keegan is saying that they will be the "calvary". Both are just conjecture.

Boouk 9 years, 2 months ago

If we had them this year we'd be 5-4 or 6-3.

justsayin81 9 years, 2 months ago

If my aunt had a you know what, she'd be my uncle.

Dirk Medema 9 years, 2 months ago

"Heap couldn't cut it at BYU."

Actually, Heaps did fine at BYU. He stepped in his freshman year and replaced an injured upperclassmen who wet down with a season ending injury. Heaps had a solid freshman year - 219 of 383 (57%) for 2316 yds for 15 TD's against 9 INT's = a 116 QBRtg. He got replaced by the upperclassman his soph year and didn't appreciate it, and left. Heaps still had a solid year.

Just bein real.

justsayin81 9 years, 2 months ago

He was replaced because he was performing badly. It wasn't like the coach woke up and decided, "You know what? I think I'm gonna bench Jake". Just being real.

Sam Brockert 9 years, 2 months ago

Was performing badly...Or not performing as well as the other quarterback?

Mike Hart 9 years, 2 months ago

Actually, you are half right. He did ok his freshman year.. but he was somewhat ineffective his 2nd season... and lost his starting job to the man he replaced the previous year. It was Heaps' job to lose. If you go read the BYU billboards... there are many that complain about him missing receivers.... not being mobile enough... and the word "bust" was tossed around quite a bit. Here is Wikipaedia on Heaps at BYU:

Heaps began his freshman season sharing time with starting quarterback Riley Nelson. Once Nelson was lost to injury against Florida State, Heaps led the Cougars the rest of the season to six wins and four losses. He improved as the season progressed and had only a single loss in his last six games as he surpassed Ty Detmer's freshman touchdown record that stood for 22 years with 15 touchdowns. In the month of November and the December bowl game, Heaps threw 13 touchdowns and two interceptions and passed for 1,259 yards. He was the first freshman quarterback to ever lead the Cougars in Brigham Young's 29 bowl game appearances. Heaps was named the New Mexico Bowl's Most Valuable Player, breaking some of the bowl's records after leading BYU to a comfortable victory. As a true freshman, Heaps threw for 2,316 yards, 15 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions with a quarterback rating of 116.2. He completed 219 passes on 383 attempts with a completion percentage of 57.2%.

During the 2011 season, Heaps started the first five games of the season. During those first five games, Heaps threw 3 touchdowns and 5 interceptions and failed to garner a QB rating higher than 116.3 or complete a pass greater than 37 yards. He was benched during the Utah St. game in which backup quarter-back Riley Nelson led BYU to a come-from-behind victory. Heaps saw limited action until Riley Nelson was injured during a game against the University of Idaho. Heaps finished the game against Idaho, and started the next game against New Mexico State, but was replaced when Nelson was cleared to play the following week. Heaps ended the 2011 season with a completion percentage of 57.1, 9 touchdowns, 8 interceptions, and a QB rating of 111.0. After the December 3 game against Hawaii, Heaps announced that he would not travel with the team to the Armed Forces Bowl game, but would instead be seeking to transfer schools.

Dirk Medema 9 years, 2 months ago

BYU was 7-5 with Heaps and 0-1 with the other QB his freshman year.

Micky Baker 9 years, 2 months ago

And BYU is an Independent that doesn't play SDSU. They play teams like Notre Dame, USC, etc.

texashawk10 9 years, 2 months ago

How about you go look at BYU's schedule before getting diarrhea of the finger. No BYU does not play South Dakota St., but last year they did play Idaho St. and this year they played Weber St. They've also played such national powers as Idaho, San Jose St., and New Mexico St. this year and last year. Can you also tell me when they played USC over the past two years since that's who BYU schedules every year.

Robert Brock 9 years, 2 months ago

I think that Heaps and McCay will amount to a positive upgrade. Will it be enough to really make an impact on games to tip them into the win column? Quien Sabe?

Boouk 9 years, 2 months ago

I expect McCay to be a lot like Jimmay Mundine even though they play 2 different positions. McCay should probably be a great blocking WR and a little faster than Mundine. I think 3 good comparisons to Heaps would be David Ash, Nick Florence, and Seth Doege. He probably won't be as productive as them because they have better players surrounding them, but Heaps will have a good running game to take pressure off him. I'd be shocked if this Calvary isn't more productive than the last one.

Lucas Town 9 years, 2 months ago

I can see the Ash comparison, but not the other two. Florence and Doege toss the ball all over the field. Ash, a little inconsistent. We have no idea what we are getting in Heaps, it will be his 2nd year in Weis' system and he lost playing time at BYU. Crist was in his 3rd or 4th year in Weis' system and lost playing time at Notre Dame. I know we can't compare players like that, but this is the Big 12.

Micky Baker 9 years, 2 months ago

3rd or 4th year in Weis's system? It was his second year in Weis's system and first year for all the other players at Kansas in it.

Lucas Town 9 years, 2 months ago

Crist was with Weis in 2008 and 2009 at Notre Dame. Weis was fired spent 2010 with Cheifs, 2011 with the Gators and reunited with Crist for 2012. I am just saying that Crist is in his 3rd year with the offense. New everything seems to be working out ok at Texas A&M.

David A. Smith 9 years, 2 months ago

Any comment (football skill set related) about an unknown will probably have some validity to it. Insert McCay here. However, Heaps is not that much of an unknown. I haven't checked BYU's freshman records out for myself, but if he did set some, then we have to ask who the quarterbacks were that he surpassed. Seems that the ones that he passed up included Heisman winners and other NFL qb's. I remain excited!

indianajayhawk 9 years, 2 months ago

I think you hit the nail on the head right there. He compares at least somewhat favorably to where those guys were as freshmen. Obviously they developed a lot to get to that level, because they weren't winning Heismans as freshmen. Most of the time, when a guy is labeled a bust it isn't because he isn't any good but because he doesn't get any better and teams learn quickly to take away his well-known strengths. Hopefully Heaps has/will continue to develop into that type of player. Time will tell.

Jeff Suther 9 years, 2 months ago

Dont worry guys we have some recruits coming in to help the WR position.....oh wait.. when are we going to get some flipping recruits!?

Andy Tweedy 9 years, 2 months ago

Every year, I laugh about the ranking of KSU's recruiting class, and every year they just keep improving. Keep the faith!

Reuben_J_Cogburn 9 years, 2 months ago

Bill Snyder is a freak of nature. That's why they are successful. He's one of the best to coach the college game.

In other words, a great coach can be successful with mediocre recruits. Whereas a mediocre coach cannot be successful with mediocre recruits. That is our problem.

Dirk Medema 9 years, 2 months ago

Marquis Jackson is part of the reserves/calvary in waiting this year also - yes? He looked good, and got good reviews in the spring, but we've heard nothing from him since. Is he a redshirt so that we have some longevity after Sims and Co. graduate?

MoralVictory 9 years, 2 months ago

He looked great in the spring game and I agree that the redshirt option must be part of the plan for Jackson - he was a load.

BayPark 9 years, 2 months ago

Although it doesn't make sense to me to compare a player you have yet see play (no offense sensitive nancys), it seems there is enough evidence to suggest that Heaps could be a legitimate Big-12 quarterback. McCay, on the other hand . . . from what I've read about him--and not just here--and seen from him--did anyone see the video of him doing up-downs?--I'd be surprised if he started.

Boouk 9 years, 2 months ago

Chris Omigie or McCay? Seems pretty obvious to me.

John Miller 9 years, 2 months ago

The cavalry coming? Isn't that what they said at the Alamo too

Reuben_J_Cogburn 9 years, 2 months ago


Perhaps "cavalry" is the wrong term to describe this group.

Reuben_J_Cogburn 9 years, 2 months ago

Five stars or one...doesn't matter.

We saw, first hand, what that ranking means in college. Dayne Crist proved it's just a charade. Whereas I appreciate the premise, I think I'll forego buying into the hype this time around.

texashawk10 9 years, 2 months ago

Ratings do generally mean quite a bit in predicting future success. No they are not perfect and even people who swear by the ratings system will agree that they are not 100% perfect and it swings both ways. For every Todd Reesing, Aqib Talib, or any other player that over performs their star rating, there are just as many 5 star and very high 4 star players who under performs their star rating. Reasons for under performing can vary from not putting in the work to stay a great player, coaching changes putting a player in a bad system for their play, and sometimes players just are as good as advertised. You can reverse those reasons for why players can over achieve their star rating.

Reuben_J_Cogburn 9 years, 2 months ago

I think most of the time, though, it's mental.

The player can't handle the speed and pressure of the college level. And often, they simply can't handle the expectations.

texashawk10 9 years, 2 months ago

I think you could make the argument about under achieving being mental, but I do believe it's having a "bad" attitude leading to players looking like they can't handle the spotlight. A lot of times when a player is naturally gifted at a sport and has never had to put in the work off the field to stay better, they get a very rude awakening in college when they realize they actually have to work at it to stay a great player. Those that do put in the work end up becoming those players who live up to their lofty expectations and those that don't want to put in that work are the ones that fade into obscurity and have a where are they now article written about them down the road about how they wasted their gift.

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