'We're all No. 1s'
Force's trio of receivers ready to step out of the shadows

FLOWERY BRANCH - Undiscovered. Sleeper. Not on the radar. A lot to prove. Potential. Question mark.

Georgia Force players and coaches use those adjectives to describe their receiving corps. This from a team that led the Arena League in yards per game, was second in passing yards per game and was third in scoring offense last season. Its quarterback, Chris Greisen, set an all-time league mark with 117 touchdown passes in a season. The team won the Southern Division, finished 14-2 and was a win away from the ArenaBowl.

But leading receiver Chris Jackson and his 47 touchdown catches is gone. So are Derek Lee's 20 scoring grabs.

"(The receiving corps) has been the biggest question mark that our fans have had with regard to our football team," said head coach Doug Plank. "Everyone is talking about the losses that we've had in terms of personnel losses."

Answers to the questions, retorts to the talk come Saturday in the season opener against the Dallas Desperados.

And they come from Troy Bergeron, Carl Morris and Brent Holmes. It's the first opportunity for this new group to emerge from the shadows of differing degree cast across them.

"We all look at ourselves as No. 1 receivers," Bergeron said. "Brent is coming in looking to be the No. 1 guy, Carl is trying to be the No. 1 guy, I'm trying to be the No. 1 guy. We don't look at it as one, two and three. We are all trying to be that guy."

For Bergeron, it's a chance to truly be first option. While Jackson snagged 47 touchdowns last year, Bergeron kept pace with 41. He caught 13 less passes for 179 less yards.

Now, it's his chance.

"I am always up for the challenge," said Bergeron who's wry smile shows a confidence masked by his humble words. "I definitely feel I am up for the task, as well as the other two guys."

Bergeron is the Force's proven receiver. Even in the shadow of Jackson he became one of the AFL's best receivers. Listed as 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, his size isn't overwhelming, but when combined with speed makes him elusive in the middle of the field.

"He is the guy everybody prepares to stop," said offensive coordinator Jim Kubiak.

Darker shadows, bigger questions loom for Morris and Holmes. Holmes was only active for one regular season game in 2007 and didn't catch a pass. Morris caught 14 passes for 145 yards and five touchdowns.

"We have a lot to prove," Kubiak said. "I think those guys know it. It is really the first opportunity for Carl and Brent to be in a starting lineup."

Size alone makes Morris a threat. At 6-3, 220, elusiveness is not a big part of the Harvard product's game.

"You are always looking for big, physical guys," Kubiak said. "Carl is bigger than you think he is. He is more physical than you think he is."

And Morris knows the situation he enters. This is his third season with the Force. He's seen time on defense and special teams, but catching passes drives him.

"We are definitely looking to prove something," Morris said. "We don't have a lot of respect around the league, yet. That is our goal.

"We are trying to form our own identity and come and do our thing and put our stamp on this team."

Watching a Force practice, every receiver makes touchdown catches and they do it from all distances. Holmes makes them look best.

The smallest of the three blurs through the defense and when he catches long balls he appears under the ball at the perfect moment, full speed. In the Force's conference championship loss to Columbus, Holmes caught his only nine passes of the year. But after a year of limited playing time, Holmes presents the biggest unknown.

"Brent has a lot of potential," Kubiak said of the 5-11, 175-pound Holmes. "Teams are going to try to be physical with him and he's got a lot to prove. He has the potential to be a sleeper for us."

Entering his second year in the AFL, Holmes is ready to break loose. He watched his teammates rack up TDs and yards last year and like the other two, it is his turn to emerge.

"One man goes, another man steps up," he said. "I don't want to take anything away from Chris Jackson, but as receivers we are trying to step up and make plays just like he did."

Three days before the season starts, Plank is nervous. Camp is over. Practices look good. But camp and practices aren't games. For him, its more than receivers. They are just the focus. Like the quarterback Greisen was last year when he had never started and AFL game.

"Let's see what happens," Plank says.

Answers come soon enough.