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.


Reuben_J_Cogburn 1 year, 5 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.


millerxfive 1 year, 5 months ago

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


BayPark 1 year, 5 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.


Dirk Medema 1 year, 5 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?


Jeff Suther 1 year, 5 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!?


David A. Smith 1 year, 5 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!


Boouk 1 year, 5 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.


Robert Brock 1 year, 5 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?


bigtex 1 year, 5 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 !!!


MoralVictory 1 year, 5 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?


BringBackMark 1 year, 5 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.


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