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CFF Series - A Tale of Two Freshmen
What does English novelist Charles Dickens have to do with these two CFF players? VP explains, and compares the two breakout WRs from a CFF and C2C context.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…
- Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (1859)
That opening quote from “A Tale of Two Cities” is not only a great line in English Literature, but I would argue that it is also an embodiment of what the CFB season feels like for CFB and CFF diehards alike. Now, I know what you’re thinking—VP, I come here for CFB sicko shit, not 19th century literature. I get it I get it, but let me explain…
Within the span of one four-month long campaign, there is light, there is darkness, there is hope, despair… and everything in between. And indeed, it never lasts long enough. But the feeling of waking up every Saturday with the Spring of hope is like no other. It’s the beautiful thing about CFB—there is always next Saturday, next year’s rematch, next year’s recruiting class… and so on. And there is no better instrument to drum up hope amongst fanbases than a true freshman who breaks through to the starting lineup. This year, we are fortunate, as the 2023 season has gifted us A Tale of Two Freshman that would make even Charles Dickens himself nod in approval.
Eugene Wilson, a prized recruit who pledged his allegiance to the University of Florida, arrived in Gainesville with the weight of expectations and a promise to help bring UF back to its former glory. A few states up North, in Raleigh, North Carolina, the lesser-known Kevin Concepcion quietly committed to NC State, where his journey began in relative obscurity. Concepcion burst onto the national stage early in the season, while Wilson's path to glory was a more patient and gradual ascent. Just as London and Paris symbolized dichotomies in Dickens’ world, Concepcion and Wilson represent two distinct cities of talent.
NC State WR Kevin Concepcion — 5’11, 187
As surprising as it may be in hindsight, NC State's Kevin Concepcion was not a highly touted recruit coming out of high school. A three-star WR (according to 247 Sports) from the Charlotte, NC area, Concepcion did not hold offers from the "who's who" of college football, but he did have offers from all the local schools, such as UNC, UNCC, NC State, and even Florida State.
He started off his freshman season with a solid opening, being targeted five times and catching four passes for 36 yards against UConn (7.6 points in 1PPR formats) . It was a notable performance, especially considering he was in Year 1 in the program, but it wasn't enough to establish him as CFF relevant in most leagues. The fact that he secured a starting role to open the year was not a surprise, however, as OC Robert Anae had communicated earlier in the offseason that Concepcion was making plays in camp.
His breakout performance came in Week Four vs. ACC rival UVA, where Concepcion caught six passes on 10 targets for 116 yards and two scores (29.6 points).
Quick shoutout to to guys over at DevyDeepDive for putting together a cut up of that performance.
Concepcion is currently averaging 16.6 FPG on the season, and I would expect him to finish 2023 strong. I would also anticipate that his valuation going into 2024 will be very high amongst CFF managers.
What stands out about KC is his proven versatility on offense, and his coaches (both in high school and college) seem to be comfortable finding as many ways as possible to get him the ball.
In his senior year of high school, he finished with 40 receptions for 603 yards and four touchdowns, 18 carries for 158 yards and two touchdowns, five kick returns for 322 yards and a touchdown, and two punt returns for 49 yards. This versatility has continued in college, as the Wolfpack staff routinely feed him carries on the ground in addition to the high target volume he receives via the air.
Also, when looking around, I found an interesting tidbit about KC's demeanour: his high school coach—Coach Brandon Wiggins, described KC as having a 'killer look' during game time that let him know it was time to feed him. Here are a few quotes from a Rivals article back in 2022:
Wiggins said Concepcion can simply give him “The Look” and that is when he knows it is time to get him the ball.
“I could call it the ‘K.C. killer look,’” Wiggins said. “I just tell coach (OC) to feed the beast.”
Kevin Concepcion himself described what the coaches plan for him was when he got on NC State’s campus back in 2022:
They [NC State coaches] were definitely excited for sure. It was just my last visits there because they showed me how important I was to them. They want me outside, inside and punt [returns] and kickoff [returns].
Great system for WR usage—Anae’s WR1 averaged 71.5 catches, 1073 yards, and 7.5 TDs per season between 2018 and 2022 (excluding 2020)
Early breakout in Y1, and strong spring camp buzz before that
Returning starter at QB (as I write this it has been announced that MJ Morris will sit the rest of the season, likely to enter the transfer portal)
Weak in-conference defences
Positional and usage versatility (ex: six rush attempts in the game vs. Miami)
Already WR1 in the program
QB position is a question mark for 2024
Robert Anae could abscond this offseason, or next—he’s a coach who’s moved around quite a bit
UF WR Eugene Wilson — 5’10, 170
UF's Eugene 'Trey' Wilson was a much more coveted recruit compared to his counterpart in North Carolina. Programs such as Alabama, UGA, and Florida were heavily involved in the recruitment of the high four-star playmaker from the Tampa Bay area in Florida. He was one of the bigger recruiting victories for Napier and his staff in Year Two of the program.
He didn't break out as early as Concepcion, but that's usually the case with players at higher pedigree programs. His first major performance came in Week Six vs. Vanderbilt, where he caught eight of his 11 targets for 64 yards and a score (20.4 points). Since then, he has received nine or more targets in every game and has scored 16 or more points in four straight games — and that's as the WR2 behind Ricky Pearsall, or at least, sharing the target share with Pearsall.
A Florida Gators beat writer had this to say on Wilson in the offseason:
His play style resembles Percy Harvin, and it doesn’t matter if Wilson gets the ball at the line of scrimmage or 30 yards down the field, he is impossible to bring down.
Wilson can escape traffic as well as any prospect out there, but he isn’t afraid to absorb contact or fight through the secondary to catch a ball.
I suppose when you consider that just before the season started, Wilson was allowed to change his number from a very freshman-esque #21 to the #3 jersey number, his breakout as a freshman isn't that surprising. Usually, freshmen don't get such privileges before the season unless they've really proven that they're legitimate in camp. I am only somewhat joking about this last part.
Here is another Gator beat report on Wilson during the offseason:
He has "already made a name for himself" within the Gators' offense in the practice setting, likely referring to his compliments from head coach Billy Napier shortly following Wilson's promotion to full participation in fall camp.
"I think Tre, in particular, really cut it loose," Napier recalled on Aug. 7 from practice the night before. "He's kind of had some soft tissue issues to start camp, so I think his presence was known out there last night. I think he'll make our team better."
Wilson — who missed time in September due to a collarbone injury — is currently averaging 16.8 FPG over seven games played.
Strong recruiting pedigree
Mid-year breakout as a freshman
Entering into a probable production vacancy next year with Pearsall moving on
Starting QB could return next year, and has improved his play in 2023
Tough in-conference defences
System is not great—OC Rob Sale’s offences have yet to produce a 1000-yard receiver at the FBS level (could break that mark this season)
Closing—Which One is Better Going Forward for CFF/C2C?
CFF: Concepcion feels like the safer pick from a pure CFF angle because of the infrastructure in place. When in doubt, following productive systems in CFF will lead to more positive outcomes than not, and when splitting hairs between players, this is typically a good differentiator.
That being said, we've seen Wilson blossom into a highly productive player this season under the current Gator staff, so we know that it's possible. I just trust the Anae offensive system and weak ACC defenses to provide the necessary support long-term for KC's production profile over the — largely unproven — Gators staff, and SEC defenses (excluding LSU). One concern to keep in mind when doing long-term analyses is acknowledging that the coaches there currently could move on during the span of each player's career. That could be a good or bad thing, depending on the replacements.
C2C: From a C2C angle, things are a little more interesting. Wilson playing at the bigger program does give him a leg up with regards to the NFL draft, and their production in college won't matter as much to NFL GMs. While both players are smaller (below 6'0"), at least KC reps the boundary in addition to the slot in his offense, displaying the ability to potentially do that at the next level. Wilson seems like more of a pure slot player. At the NFL level, it's more likely the player who can rep the boundary will be more valuable than the pure slot receiver, but that's not a be-all-end-all argument; there are, of course, exceptions to every rule.
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