Villanova Football has a concerning lack of proven threats at wide receiver, but they do have one player with the potential to be a superstar for the team. Sophomore Jarrett McClenton is not only the leading returning producer (22 rec., 171 yards, 1 TD / 219 yds. rushing, 1 TD), but because of his skillset he’s likely to be a focal point of the offense. Andy Talley agrees:
Playing out of the slot, McClenton will see plenty of the ball whether he’s taking handoffs or catching passes. He was a mainstay on special teams as well, returning a handful of punts last season. While small in stature, he’s one of the fastest and shiftiest players on the team. He’s got home run potential every time he touches the ball.
Here’s how you’ll likely see McClenton utilized:
The Jet Sweep
You’ll see Villanova run several iterations of this increasingly popular play used by most spread offenses. The formations will differ based on down, field position and personnel, but expect McClenton to be a fixture in all of them. Below is an example:
McClenton is the player in motion, and will take a handoff from the QB. The play is designed to utilize McClenton’s speed against the space on the field, providing him with several blockers to seal off defenders from entering the backfield.
You’ll see several iterations of this play, including using McClenton as a decoy while handing the ball off to the primary RB, and for passes. He doesn’t necessarily need the ball to be a threat.
Like the sweep, the play design is to get McClenton the ball in space where he can evade defenders using his pace. The terminology varies but these are most commonly known as a flare or bubble screen. Here’s an example.
Aaron Wells was used in this role to devastating effect last season. His raw speed (and strength) were a huge asset. Without him, we could see McClenton get more touches in this fashion. This play works whether he’s lined up in the slot, or even out of the backfield.
This is what Villanova has been missing in recent years. Kevin Gulyas did an admirable job, but lacked the top-end speed of predecessors like Norm White and Brandyn Harvey. McClenton has the speed, but not the size to be a huge success here.
That’s not to say he can’t be valuable though. Given how much action he’ll be seeing underneath, he can surprise a defense by going long. He had some success with crossing and post patterns last season, but given his slight stature you’re running the risk of injury by sending him in big hit land too often.
With the expected increase in offensive touches, will we still see him on punt/kick returns? Hard to say, and it might make more sense to give a guy like Josh McGrigg a chance and protect McClenton.
If he can become the star of the Villanova offense, it will take pressure off the rest of the WR corps., and provide what looks like a solid running back unit with ample opportunity to pound away at the defense.