EDITOR’S NOTE TXCleaver graces us with his presence once again, this time to profess his love for undrafted rookie free agent wide receiver Terrence Toliver, whom the Texans recently signed. Cleaver is an admitted LSU homer, but when sober he has an uncanny ability to drop rabid allegiances and give real, unbiased insight. He probably wasn’t very drunk when he wrote this, so you can trust a few of the letters that follow.
Big thanks to Cleaver for the entry. Hopefully I can convince him to shoot a few more this way in the future.
Team X signs undrafted free agent Y and you hear — GREAT FIT! Really fits a need! Highly touted but injured his [insert body part]. A project. A real talent. Blah blah blah.
You’ve heard this before. Of course everyone wants their team to uncover the next gem – the next Kurt Warner, or John Randle, maybe Wes Welker or Nate Newton. Or maybe they just want an All Pro running back like our own Arian Foster? So who are these guys that get picked up after over 200 players were chosen before them? I watch a lot of football by normal standards, and follow the draft a lot by abnormal standards. I have no clue about 90% of these undrafted free agents.
So it’s rare that I genuinely root for one of these guys to end up on the Texans. The 23 non-bot followers* of mine know that I’ve been stumping for Terrence Toliver since before the draft.
Who is this guy and why have I been yapping about him so long? Full disclosure: I’m a big LSU fan. I also am fairly objective in my opinions about which players will translate in the NFL (see: my Trindon Holliday treatment.)
Terrence Toliver is the ultimate unknown potential wide receiver. He’s big (6′ 4″), fast enough (4.5 or 4.6 40 time), good pedigree, and yet boasts stats that aren’t as good as one might expect. LSU had a fatal combination for a wide receiver for a couple of years – horrid QB play and inconsistent play-calling. As Gary Crowton (thankfully, now-former offensive coordinator) devolved into an offensive Frank Bush, LSU’s offensive stars took a beating. Of 120 FBS schools, LSU’s offense ranked #86 overall last year, and #113 in passing.
It is difficult for a fan to fully scout some aspects of WR play, even without having to filter through Crowton’s turrrible offense. We can’t always see their blocking, or the precision of their route-running. We either don’t have the angle or the Tiger juice (Bourbon) has been flowing to the point that you quit paying attention, while deciding it would be productive to call the SEC headquarters during the game to complain about the officiating…well, I digress.
I watch (and normally re-watch) every LSU game. Here’s what I know about Toliver — he is a playmaker when his QB is anything better than rancid. On top of that, he is either extremely durable or has a rubber-coated cinder block for a head. THIS GUY IS TOUGH. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a WR take such continuous abuse at the hands of his QB. At least once per game, it seemed like Jefferson would lead him right into a linebacker, safety, cornerback, or some lethal combination thereof. And Toliver normally made the catch and always got up, ready for more. It was a terrifying marvel to watch.
To see Toliver with decent QB play, check the Florida game from last year. Jarrett Lee inexplicably played like a scholarship QB, and Toliver was a problem for Florida. He beat them deep, he beat them short, and most tellingly – he beat them in the red zone. He also busted off a spin move that was part Vick v. Vikings and part Andre Johnson dragging defenders into the endzone.
Also, there was that one full game that Jordan Jefferson impersonated a scholarship QB. Jefferson flashed his full potential against Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl, and Toliver put on a show. He beat the Aggies deep twice for touchdowns, and got another red zone touchdown. See every play here.
As for pedigree, Toliver went to LSU as the #1 WR in the nation and did not redshirt. In fact, he started two games as a freshman, on a team that featured other WRs like Early Doucet (NFL), Brandon Lafell (NFL), Demetrius Byrd (NFL-bound, then car accident), and Trindon Holliday (inexplicably NFL.) He was a starter as a junior and senior.
One last thing…has Bob McNair turned the corner on his “character issues?” Toliver was charged with three misdemeanors stemming from a bar** fight last year, during which he broke his hand. Ordinarily, that would get a kid blacklisted with Mr. McNair. But here we are, with Toliver suiting up in the blue and red. Most of us see that kind of fight for what it is — the same kind of thing we did back in the day — without being criminally prosecuted. Fights happen. They’re sometimes necessary. It’s the natural order of things. It does NOT mean that the participants are bad guys or “character risks.” Toliver was contrite afterward, and offered his apologies. End of story.
Well..almost. Hopefully Toliver knows that he shouldn’t be out at bars now that he’s a high-profile professional athlete. Unlike most of us at that age, Toliver will be under a microscope and need to perform at his best. The difference between stars and former players is so small that the nightlife can be the difference (see: Jones, Jacoby.)
Summary: Big, fast, long-strider, tough, occasionally disinterested (or disheartened?), above average hands. Overall good redzone target. He can use a decided height advantage on most defensive backs and positions his body well. An under-appreciated skill is that he normally looks the ball into his hands then tries to get upfield. Toliver isn’t the most fluid WR and doesn’t always play with an edge (or disheartened?)
Floor as NFL receiver: As with any WR, being cut and not making the practice squad.
Ceiling as NFL receiver: Starting #2 WR, depending on whether he gets bigger or faster. I doubt he has the overall skills to be a #1 WR, but if he gets stronger, he could be hard to keep off the field. With dedication on and off the field, Toliver could be a star.
Guess where he slots as a rookie: I think he’s the #4 or #5 WR as a rookie, depending on Dorin Dickerson’s progress.
NFL Comparison: Roy Williams. I feel dirty making the comparison but that’s about the closest example I’ve got. I would like to say he’s the next CheddarPlax Burress given his size, but he’s not there yet. I would be thrilled if he develops like Roy Williams. The Texans didn’t have to trade half a draft only to see the Hindenburgian results of making him a franchise wideout.
Two reasons you should welcome him: 1: in his words, “This is my dream come true, the place that I wanted to be. I can’t tell you how happy I am.” 2: David Anderson***
Follow Terrence Toliver at @TToliver80
Hit me up on the Twitter @TXCleaver if you want to become a better person. Otherwise, go color a book with Vince Young.
*tongue firmly in cheek, as almost all of the elite Texans bloggers follow me (hell, even @AlanBurge!) And I don’t mind that others don’t follow…except @lancezierlein and @stephstradley. It makes me sad for #Merica that they’re too good for me
** Fred’s in Baton Rouge, AKA the bar in which TXCleaver developed his love of Scotch. You should all be grateful for that fine institution.
*** After the writing of this article, David Anderson was cut. Point proven.