Hayo Carpenter, rated at five stars by Scout.com (4 stars by Rivals.com), is the second recruit who has ever come to Minnesota with a rating of five stars. The first, Brandon Owens, was a member of the 2003 recruiting class and had a career shortened by a shoulder injury. Star ratings began in 2002.
So, what can Gopher fans expect from Hayo Carpenter? Will he live up to his star ratings and dazzle the competition while opposite of Eric Decker? Or will he be another run-of-the-mill receiver who has a few good plays throughout the course of the season? Hayo Carpenter is a wild card who's performance will likely mirror the 2009 season for Minnesota. Without a top tier second receiver, Eric Decker will most likely be over-worked and double covered. The 2009 schedule is more challenging than the 2008 schedule, and the offense must improve if the season is to be a success. Thus, if the Gopher offense is to significantly outperform the 2008 squad, Hayo Carpenter must live up to the hype.
Let's analyze some video from Carpenter's Junior College, College of the Canyons. Maybe the footage holds some clues as to what to watch for, and what to watch out for. Click here for a link to the video, or view the embedded video at the bottom of this post. Here's my analysis of his play, with the time of the play in the video listed to the left of the comments. Carpenter is wearing number 9 on offense:
0:00 Carpenter is lined up at the top of the screen. The touchdown play is a standard bomb toss. Carpenter appears to have great speed, but we don't know who was covering him. At 5'11, he isn't the prototype 6'5 215 pound receiver. However, he exhibits good body control and keeps his balance after the catch.
1:06 Lined up at the top of the screen, Carpenter runs a down-and-out route that appears to be precisely timed. He exhibits sideline awareness with a stutter-step before going out of bounds.
1:34 This play demonstrates maturity and possession of a well-rounded skill set for Carpenter. The play is a quarterback scramble. When the quarterback cuts back to the bottom of the field, Carpenter avoids the easy opportunity for clipping, accelerates in front of the defender, and makes a quality down field block.
2:15 The classic "turn around and catch the ball while landing one foot in bounds" highlight reel catch. Such a catch requires good hands, agility, precision route running, and field position awareness.
2:51 Another two handed sideline catch in the tradition of Cris Carter.
3:09 Despite lacking size, Carpenter moves forward after contact.
3:45 Appears to fumble after contact. Defenders in the Big Ten hit harder that in Junior College, so keep an eye out for ball control issues.
5:15 The quickness that Carpenter exhibits in changing direction and running down field after catching a pass in a curl route is impressive.
5:38 Displays good moves after the catch. Makes the first defender miss, and avoids direct hits from subsequent defenders.
7:57 Another stutter-step sideline catch.
8:35 An amazing "toe-drag while falling down" sideline catch.
Remember that highlight film usually avoids the lowlights. Based upon the video, here's my analysis of Hayo Carpenter's strengths and weaknesses:
Strengths: Speed (listed 4.4 forty yard dash), route running, field awareness, agility, sideline awareness, blocking, running after the catch.
Weaknesses: Size, height, maybe fumble-prone? Also, he'll be a junior and he's yet to have any Big Ten experience.
Carpenter should have a successful season for the Gophers in 2009 if he stays healthy and the offensive line improves enough to give him time to run his routes. Winning enough games to make a bowl bid with a challenging 2009 schedule could depend upon the performance of a single wild card, Hayo Carpenter.