Luke climbing depth chart at wideout

Like the rest of his teammates, sophomore wideout Triandos Luke sees last season as something of a waste. The losing record was bad enough, but a broken hand kept him out of the first four games. And when he did return the former high school All-America never seemed to get untracked. <br><br> "I'm definitely feeling more comfortable this year," Luke acknowledged. "I'm getting more opportunities. But mainly I just want to contribute to the team.

"I'm really looking forward to having a good season. I'm looking forward to getting more balls thrown my way and contributing to the team a lot more."

Alabama lists four receiver positions on its official handouts, and Luke began the season bracketed just behind a top group of Freddie Milons, Antonio Carter, Jason McAddley and Sam Collins. But his play over the last two weeks has him climbing the depth chart. "Last week the coaches told me to start learning the H-position a little bit," Luke explained. "And during practice I've been rotating to the other slots. Me and J-Mac (McAddley) and AC (Carter) are all rotating."

Triandos Luke fields a kickoff at practice. Though Milons and Carter are the primary kick returners, Luke can return kicks as well.

Wide Receivers Coach Kenith Pope is responsible for evaluating Bama's wideouts. "Triandos would be our starter at the ‘H' position now. The last two weeks we've played five receivers, and he's been one of the guys that has given us an edge. He has the ability to help us win. We're encouraged."

Continued Pope; "The thing that we're excited about Triandos goes all the way back to this summer. He's worked really hard outside of the weight room in the summer 7-on-7 drills. He did a nice job each day and each week really improving."

Like the rest of the non-freshmen on the team, Luke was recruited by the previous staff. But his adjustment has been an easy one. "I like the new coaches," he related. "They're straight with you. They really know what they're doing. Coach Pope is a good position coach. He's tough. He tells you what you need to do, and then you'd better do it."

Most fans assume that so-called ‘skill players' are more finesse than physical. But they haven't met Coach Pope. Luke explained; "He puts a lot of emphasis on blocking. If you miss a block, then you don't want to go back to the sideline. We really have done better this year blocking."

Following through on a mandate from Head Coach Dennis Franchione, Pope puts his unit through a series of blocking drills every day in practice. "It's more technique than strength," Luke explained. "It's not so much being strong. If you get the proper position and maintain a good base, then you can block."

"We're supposed to be the toughest players on the team," Luke continued. "(Coach Pope) tells us that all the time. He wants us blowing up cornerbacks, safeties, linebackers, everybody. We're trying to develop that physical attitude. Last year we went down and blocked, but this year there is more of an emphasis."

Luckily for Luke, the sophomore has made good use of his time in the Bama weight room. "I've added about six or seven pounds, but I've gotten a lot stronger since I first got here," he explained. "In high school I was bench pressing about 300 pounds, and now I'm over 370. My squat was around 355 and now it's at least 415."

As a true freshman Luke played in seven games, but the broken hand that kept him out of the first four was a difficult injury to overcome. During all of 2000 he only had two catches for six yards total. But after the first two games this season, the Phenix City native already has five receptions for 60 yards, ranking him third on the team behind Carter and Milons.

"I think I've got good speed," Luke admitted. "I run good routes. I think I'm a leader--a quiet leader. I don't say too much, but I try to lead just by making plays and encouraging my teammates."

Pictured talking to Coach Fran at practice, Luke is one of the young offensive stars on the squad.

A Beta Club and National Honor Society member in high school, Luke is one of the best students on the team. But the ability to make tough catches is what caught Coach Pope's attention. "The best thing about Triandos is he's got good hands--sure hands," Pope said. "He does a nice job of focusing in. He locks in on the football. He's a sharp guy. He understands the route structure. He gives us a big plus. Right now we're excited about what we've seen in Triandos the last two weeks.

"Yeah, I catch the ball pretty well," Luke admitted reluctantly. "I don't miss many balls. We really worked on that his summer. I was out here just about every day. I think I'm developing."

Most fans would assume that all college wideouts have good hands, giving them the ability to catch the football. And physically that's probably true. But Luke believes there is more to it than that. "I think it's a matter of taking care of the opportunities. When the ball comes your way, make the catch. The quarterback isn't always going to make a good throw. You've got to adjust to the ball. Catch it, however it's thrown.

"It's mental. When I'm catching the ball, I don't really think about it. I just go out and do it. I've done it so many times--so many repetitions, that it's routine."

Alabama has two quarterbacks that are proven winners in the SEC. Last year's starter Andrew Zow is a strong-armed athlete, capable of throwing frozen ropes. While junior Tyler Watts is known more for his running.

But it's a common misconception that Bama's receivers have a difficult time in adjusting to the two quarterbacks. "In a game I don't think there is a big difference," Luke explained. "Zow has a stronger arm than Tyler, so on curls and those short patterns you've got to be ready. Protect yourself. Tyler has a nice touch on the fade and corner routes. But there's not that much adjustment. Just go out there and catch the ball."

Of course catching the football is something Bama fans expect to see much more of from Luke in coming years. "I need to continue working on my blocking and my technique," he said. "Just getting better at the game. I'm still adjusting to the SEC a little bit. I need to learn the coverages better--continue to work hard and learn everything I can."

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