Workpeh Kofa is one of the Charlotte 49ers’ few experienced receivers, and that’s not something he takes lightly.
He treats it as a responsibility, actually.
“That’s my job, to help the young guys out,” said Kofa, a senior who caught 25 passes for 343 yards and a touchdown last season. “I try to show them through my style of play, to be prepared for any moment, any fashion, in a game. I think they’ll be good by the time the season starts.”
A starter for much of his career, Kofa, who came to the 49ers from Charlotte’s Independence High, is fourth on the school’s all-time receiving list with 849 yards, six touchdowns and 69 receptions.
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But Kofa (his first name is pronounced War-PAY) was often overshadowed earlier in his career by former receivers Austin Duke and Trent Bostick.
“I’ve always felt like a big contributor here, I’ve always felt like it was my time to step up, whenever it was,” Kofa said. “But I feel that way more than ever as a senior.”
Now, along with fellow senior Mark Quattlebaum (who led the team last season with 31 catches), he’ll be the leader of a receiving corps that coach Brad Lambert said might have plenty of talent but is thin on experience.
“I really like the camp Workpeh is having,” Lambert said. “That’s what you expect from a senior. But he’s taking it to a new level, from a knowledge standpoint. We really need for him to have a big year.”
Kofa and Quattlebaum will start when the 49ers open their season Sept. 1 against Fordham, with the third receiver’s spot likely going to a newcomer like junior college transfer Victor Tucker, or either Cameron Bent or Cameron Dollar, a pair of redshirt freshmen.
That competition is underway while Lambert and new offensive coordinator Shane Montgomery install a new offense, which will include more pro-style principles than Charlotte has had in the past. There are also three quarterbacks - senior Hasaan Klugh, junior transfer Evan Shirreffs and redshirt freshman Chris Reynolds - vying for the starting job.
“I’m loving the new offense,” Kofa said. “It’s more complex and there are many more things we can do within it. It’s going to make it harder for defenses to play against us.
“All three (quarterbacks) are looking good. Whoever the guy is, we’ll roll with him and help give him the confidence he needs.”
Quarterback: Shirreffs is day-to-day with a hamstring injury, which might delay Lambert’s decision on who will start at quarterback. Along with Klugh and Reynolds, true freshman Brady Pope is getting some reps in Shirreffs’ absence. Lambert said the quarterback decision might come early next week.
“Evan’s hamstring (injury) has been a curveball for us,” Lambert said.
Punter: Lambert said Jackson Vansickle has moved ahead of Kyle Corbett. One of the bigger guys - if not the biggest - on the team is freshman punter Trey Smelcer, who is 6-foot-7, 240 pounds.
Offensive line: Sophomore center Jaelin Fisher is the only player on the offensive line who didn’t start last season, but Lambert believes he’s ready to go. Fisher, a sophomore from Nashville, Tenn., joins returning starters Nate Davis, Chris Brown, Darren Drake and Cameron Clark on the offensive line.
Kicker: Lambert said he’s happy with how freshman Jonathan Cruz has looked.
Returners: Mark Quattlebaum (punts) and Cameron Bent (kicks) appear to have nailed down those spots.
The 49ers’ Fan Fest is scheduled from 4-6 p.m. Saturday at Halton Arena. The free event will include autograph sessions with Charlotte’s football and volleyball teams and family-friendly activities. Lambert, volleyball coach Karen Weatherington and athletics director Mike Hill are expected to attend.