C.R. Titans' receivers short on depth, long on talent and potential

Willie Carter, Bryan Pray making impact as newcomers for Titans

The Titans' Bryan Pray scores one of his three receiving touchdowns against the Tri-Cities Fever on March 22 at the U.S. Cellular Center. (Justin Wan/The Gazette-KCRG TV9)
The Titans' Bryan Pray scores one of his three receiving touchdowns against the Tri-Cities Fever on March 22 at the U.S. Cellular Center. (Justin Wan/The Gazette-KCRG TV9)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Headed into this season, offense was the No. 1 priority for Cedar Rapids Titans Coach Mark Stoute.

His unit has made strides this season, scoring 58 points in back-to-back games, and has helped the team to three straight wins while averaging more than 47 points per game.

Still, the offense is walking a thin line, especially at receiver. With only four wide receivers on the roster, Stoute has had to pull in some defensive backs and even backup quarterback Dante Perez in certain situations.

Luckily for the Titans, three of those guys — receiving leader Carl Sims, recently re-signed Bryan Pray (from the Philadelphia Soul of the AFL) and recent signing Willie Carter (from the Jacksonville Sharks of the AFL) — have stepped up in a big way.

“We’re thin at the wide receiver right now,” Stoute said. “Pray had a big night (with) three catches for touchdowns this past week (against Tri-Cities). He’s picked up right where he left off last year.

“Willie’s a big, strong, athletic kid (and has had) a great couple of games for us. He was in the AFL, was in camp with the Washington Redskins. He understands what it takes to play at a high level.”

Carter had three catches for 50 yards and two touchdowns in his Titans’ debut at Green Bay on March 16 and is nursing a sprained ankle himself, leaving him “day-to-day” and uncertain for Saturday against the Bemidji Axemen at U.S. Cellular Center.

The newcomer sat out of practice Wednesday, but marveled at the talent the Titans have — even if injuries have thinned things out a bit — and what they could be at full song.

“This team was a pretty good team, and I came in and I think I helped with some big plays,” Carter said. “I just filled my role. I think I did a good job stretching the defense and getting the double team away from (Carl) Sims, and he had a pretty good game. My role is to hold down the Z spot (third receiver) and make plays when available.”

Pray said he was welcomed back by his teammates, and was obviously happy to make a big impact right away, with four catches for 72 yards and the three touchdowns Stoute mentioned.

He’s adjusting to a different offense, and though timing with quarterback Spencer Ohm was hard to find initially, it’s coming around quickly.

“Now, as we’re into the second week, it’s starting to finally come (together),” Pray said. “I think the connection with me and Spence, and Carter and Sims, it’s going to be a good thing happening here.”

Stoute likes the talent he has right now, but like any football coach wants to see more out of this group.

He and his players know their potential and what they can be if they meet it.

“If we can get this together, we can be a 60-point a game team,” Pray said. “And that’s what we want to do. We want to run the scoreboard out. Once we get this timing down, which it looks like we’re starting to get down … it’s going to be a good thing happening for us.”

Kickoff for the Titans and Axemen is set for 7:05 p.m. on Saturday at the U.S. Cellular Center.

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