Fletcher hopes to solve depth problem at wideout

With two of three starters departed for the NFL, the Tide needs help at wide receiver right now. And junior-college signee Zach Fletcher just may be ready. <br><br>"He looks good so far," said Offensive Coordinator Les Koenning. "Ability-wise, I'm looking forward to seeing what he can do competing with the varsity guys."

"(The first two days) everything was slow-paced," Koenning continued. "He got a lot of reps. He got a chance to do things individually."

"I'm doing great, doing well I think," Fletcher said.

Fletcher gets help with his shoulder pads from position coach Kenith Pope.

Originally from Moulton, Fletcher signed with Alabama out of City College of San Francisco, where he totaled 82 receptions for 1,948 yards and 21 TDs in two seasons of work.

He arrived in Tuscaloosa early in the summer to get a jump on preparing for the season. "I think I fit in pretty good," Fletcher said. "I came here in the summer to work with the team. I'm glad I got here early. I know more of the offense than if I just got here (last Sunday)."

Standing 6-3, and weighing 200 pounds, Fletcher is a fluid athlete, displaying all the tools necessary to compete in the SEC. "I'd guess that my height (and size) will give me an advantage," Fletcher acknowledged. "But I don't really know for sure. It'll depend on how practice goes and what the coaches are looking for.

"But height or speed, when it comes down to it it's about catching the ball. And not just at practice but at the game."

When it's just the receiver, the defender, and one football--alone in the defensive backfield, Fletcher believes it's all about who wants it more. "You've got to think ‘That ball belongs to me,'" he explained. "You've got to be tough. It's just me and (the defender), and when that ball's on the way I'm thinking ‘It's mine. I want it.' That's what it is."

Fletcher arrived in Tuscaloosa early to begin voluntary workouts with his teammates.

Equally important with physical ability will be how quickly Fletcher can learn the Tide offense. Koenning explained, "Ability-wise I've been pleased with him. Mentally-wise we've got to see how far he'll progress. Get in the right spot.

"When the bullets start flying and the workload increases about three-fold, we'll see if he steps it up."

Fletcher recognizes the challenge. "Being older doesn't give you an advantage in learning the system. The biggest challenge is learning the plays. You can be good at running and catching, but if you don't know the plays… That's the biggest thing.

"(Wide Receivers) Coach Pope's message to me is simple. ‘Keep learning. Keep learning.'"

For Tide fans that have never seen him play, Fletcher provides a scouting report. "I think ‘athletic' would best describe me. If you show me what to do, then I can do it. I haven't seen anything yet about receiver that I can't do. It doesn't matter to me--whatever the coaches need. I may not be as fast as some, but I have the height. Coaches will put different athletes in for different things."

Fletcher is expected to immediately contend for playing time.

"We need help at wide receiver depth-wise," Koenning added. "But he needs to come on and prove it on the field."

It's almost standard procedure for true freshmen to take a redshirt year to mature and learn the system, but JUCO athletes are brought in with a different expectation. "You do look at the junior-college guys differently," Koenning acknowledged. "You sign them with the expectation for them to help us. Of course he's got to prove it, so we'll wait and see."

Tide Head Coach Dennis Franchione commented yesterday that Fletcher "looked like he could fit into the top four to five guys" at wide receiver. And Fletcher isn't backing down from the challenge. "When I signed, they said ‘We're not signing you to sit on the bench.'

"If I get it right, then I expect to play."

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