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Returning Dominators: No. 9 Corey Willis

College football season is here! In this series, I’ll break down the top-10 returning college wide receivers from 2016 by dominator rating (DR), using our FBS WR database. If you’re unfamiliar with dominator rating, it’s a receiver’s combined market share for yardage and TDs.

While it’s only one element in receiver evaluation – and requires age and experience adjustments to tell the full story – it provides an excellent snapshot of a player’s role within his offense. Consider this an early look at potential rookies next year. Some of the names may surprise you. Next up, Corey Willis.

Who?

Willis is a 5-foot-10, 172-pound redshirt senior from Holland, Michigan. A quarterback, running back, wide receiver and defensive back in high school, Willis was ranked No. 13 on the Detroit Free Press Fab 50 and No. 40 on the Detroit News Blue Chip List. An all-around athlete in high school, he lettered in football, basketball, and track. His speed and explosiveness carried him to second place in the state high jump and seventh in the 110 meter high hurdles. That athleticism led to offers from Iowa, Eastern Michigan, and Western Michigan before he eventually signed with Central Michigan. Much like Richie James, Willis redshirted his first year as he adjusted to playing WR full-time.

PRODUCTION

Corey Willis was named to the 2017 Biletnikoff Preseason Watch List after an impressive 2016 campaign. He led Central Michigan in every receiving category and was named Second Team All-MAC. However, his path to such accolades got off to a slow start. Willis was limited to only three games his freshman year and recorded only seven receptions for 70 yards (two percent market share) and zero touchdowns, for a one percent dominator rating. In his second season, Willis made strides and played all 13 games, snagging 37 balls for 564 yards (14 percent market share) and five TDs (20 percent market share) for a 17 percent dominator rating. As the top option for Cooper Rush, now a backup QB for the Dallas Cowboys, Willis more than doubled his production from 2015 to 2016. He eclipsed 1,00 receiving yards and accounted for almost 40 percent of the receiving TDs for a 35 percent dominator rating.

Year Class G Rec Rec Yds Rec TD Team Passing Team TDs MS Yards MS TD Dom
2014 R-Fr. 3 7 70 0 3149 27 0.02 0 0.01
2015 R-So. 13 37 564 5 3910 25 0.14 0.20 0.17
2016 R-Jr. 13 72 1091 9 3589 23 0.30 0.39 0.35

CHANGES

2017 presents new challenges for Willis. Along with Rush’s graduation, the Chippewas installed a new spread offense. Former Michigan quarterback Shane Morris is the new starter and the season got off to a rocky start. CMU needed three overtimes to beat FCS Rhode Island and Willis led the team in receptions with eight, but for only 43 yards. Things turned around quickly against Kansas as Willis again made eight catches, but for 140 yards and a TD. It was discovered after the game that Willis fractured his hand, and he will now miss a month or more.

CONCLUSION

Willis’ injury really dampens what was setting up to be a strong final season. As with any player outside the power five conferences, the strength of schedule will be a knock. Diving deeper into the box score, Willis’ production also seems to mirror that of his team. When they do well, he produces and vice-versa. Willis’ production in 2016 is encouraging, but without knowing his age, it’s hard to put too many pieces of the evaluation puzzle together. His high school track resume is intriguing with the high jump and high hurdles, and we’ll get a full workout at either the combine or pro day.

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