There are so many factors that go into the performance of a wide receiver or tight end.
Some played in an era, or an offensive system where passes were thrown less frequently, while others enjoyed time in modern attacks where the ball was in the air on seemingly every play.
And receivers are always dependent on the quarterback being able to deliver the ball downfield.
Still, there have clearly been some very talented ends from the Jersey Shore over the years, possessing both the ability and numbers to make opposing defenses, as well as college recruiters, take notice.
While this is the third in our five-part series – we’ve already covered defensive players (linebackers and defensive backs) and linemen (offensive and defensive) – we still have quarterbacks (Nov. 3) and running backs (Nov. 10) coming over the next two weeks. And it’s not too late to provide input for them or on any of our stories, so feel free to contact me: via email [email protected]; follow me on Twitter and send me a direct message; or go to my Facebook page and comment.
As with our series on the greatest basketball players from Monmouth and Ocean counties last winter, and our first few installments here, the hope is to highlight some of the best ever from the area, while sparking healthy debate on the subject.
So take a look at some of the best wide outs and tight ends ever to tighten a chinstrap locally, in alphabetical order:
Lonnie Allgood, Red Bank – As a two-way standout on the Bucs undefeated 1971 team, the first of three unbeaten teams coach Bob Strangia would have over a five-year period, Allgood, a 6-1, 190-pound speedster, was one of the country’s most heavily recruited receivers as a senior in 1971.
Allgood eventually chose Syracuse, where he averaged 19.1 yards-per-catch during his three seasons with the Orangemen. Drafted in the ninth round by Cincinnati in 1976, Allgood’s six year NFL career, which included stints with New Orleans and Buffalo, was plagued by knee injuries.
Saeed Blacknall, Manalapan – A 6-3, 210-pounder with game-breaking ability with the ball in his hands. Blacknall caught 92 passes for 1,447 yards over his final two seasons with the Braves, scoring 31 TDs. He caught 10 passes in the Braves’ 2013 NJSIAA CJ Group IV semifinal win over Brick Memorial, with the Braves eventually falling to Hunterdon Central in the final. He was also a dangerous returner in high school.
After verbally committing to Rutgers, Blacknall opted to sign with Penn State instead. As a sophomore for the Nittany Lions this season, Blacknall only has five catches but is averaging 27.8 yards on those receptions.
Ryshaun Conover, Lakewood – A physical, 6-2 receiver with plenty of speed, Conover helped lead the Piners to the NJSIAA South Jersey Group III playoffs his senior year for coach Chip LaBarca Jr., where they lost to Ocean City. Conover was a tremendous athlete who, in addition to starring on defense, scored 1,628 career points for the Piners in basketball.
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Conover was heavily recruited and eventually committed to play at Rutgers but never took the field for the Scarlet Knights. In 2000 he was the NJAC Offensive Rookie of the Year for New Jersey City University, averaging 34.2 yards-per-catch for the Gothic Knights.
Mike Gesicki, Southern – A massive target at 6-6, 250, Gesicki produced some eye-popping numbers while playing for the Rams as a tight end for coach Chuck Donohue. Gesicki finished his career with 103 receptions for 1,817 yards and 16 TDs. Highlighting those stats was a junior campaign in which he caught 50 passes for 954 yards and nine TDs.
He caught 11 passes for 114 yards as a freshman at Penn State in 2014, and so far this season has nine receptions, including the first college touchdown catch.
Al Golden, Red Bank Catholic – While Golden has been in the national headlines over the years as a college coach at Temple and Miami, he was a 6-3, 230-pound star at Red Bank Catholic, playing tight end and defensive end for coach Lou Montanaro. His senior season was 1986, and in early 1987 he committed to play at Penn State.
As a junior for the Nittany Lions in 1990, his fourth quarter TD grab was crucial in their upset over Notre Dame in South Bend. And as a senior captain he helped lead the team to a win in the Fiesta Bowl, finishing ranked third nationally.
Garrett Graham, Brick Memorial – A two-time All-State selection for the Mustangs (2003-04) and coach Fred Sprengel, Graham was a prolific receiver in high school, finishing with 96 receptions for 2,031 yards and 21 touchdowns, averaging 24.1 yards-per-catch as a senior.
The 6-4, 220-pound target ended up at Wisconsin, where he caught 121 passes for his career and was named first team All-Big Ten as a senior in 2009, getting drafted in the fourth round by the Houston Texans in 2010. He is currently in his sixth season with the team.
Bennett Jackson, Raritan – While Jackson made his way into the NFL as a defensive back, he was a dominating receiver in high school for coach Bob Generelli. When his career with the Rockets ended in 2009, he had 74 catches for 801 yards and 10 TDs over his final two seasons, in addition to rushing for 314 yards and six TDs as a senior, when he scored 125 points, including 47 as a kicker.
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He committed to play receiver at Notre Dame, but was converted to cornerback, where he started for two seasons. He signed with the Giants as an undrafted free agent in 2014, making the practice squad. He was poised to get playing time with their defense this season when he suffered a preseason knee injury that ended his season.
Chip LaBarca Jr., Toms River South – A two-time All-State receiver for the Indians, LaBarca caught 70 passes for over 1,000 yards over his final two seasons (1987-88), scoring 40 touchdowns during his career. He went on to play at Penn State, where the 5-10, 175-pound target played behind the likes of Terry Smith, O.J. McDuffie and Bobby Engram, averaging 17.4 yards-per-catch for his career.
It’s as a coach where he has followed in the footsteps of his father, who won state championships coaching Toms River South. LaBarca Jr. coached Toms River North to the 2007 NJSIAA South Jersey Group IV title.
Torey Morris, Toms River South – A 6-2, 185-pounder with blazing speed, Morris had 55 catches for 937 yards, a 17-yard average, and 13 touchdowns as a senior for the Indians in 1998. He caught a pair of touchdown passes that next summer for the Ocean County squad at the All-Shore Classic, before attending East Carolina.
During his freshman season in 1999, the Pirates beat Miami on the road, and as a junior he caught a pair of touchdown passes in their triple-overtime win over Houston. Morris finished his career at East Carolina with 67 catches for 1,018 yards (15.2) and seven TDs.
Tim Wright, Wall – At 6-4, 205, Wright was a physical specimen during his days with the Crimson Knights, playing for coach Chris Barnes. After catching 23 passes for 370 yards and six TDs as a senior in 2007, earning a spot in the NY-NJ All-Star Classic, Wright committed to play at Rutgers.
While his time with the Scarlet Knights was marred by a knee injury as a sophomore, he showed enough to get a shot with the Tampa Bay Bucs. That’s where former Rutgers coach Greg Schiano turned him into a tight end and he caught 54 passes as a rookie in 2013, winning a Super Bowl earlier this year with New England. Wright currently plays for the Detroit Lions.
Staff writer Stephen Edelson is an Asbury Park Press columnist: [email protected]
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