Averaging a whopping 27.6 yards per catch last season, Zach Fletcher is definitely a big-play threat. And with new Head Coach Mike Price's system, he'll get plenty of chances. "In a way the new offense is tailor made for me," he admitted. "But it's that way for all the receivers--not just for me."
As much as anything else, spring practice is a time for players to impress their coaches. And Fletcher has certainly accomplished that. Offensive Coordinator and Receivers Coach Eric Price talked about his senior wideout. "Zach's big--tall. He can run. He's got good hands. He's aggressive. He's got everything you want in a receiver."
Playing in all 12 games last year, Fletcher was basically the No. 4 man in the rotation, catching seven passes for 193 yards. "I did okay last year," Fletcher said. "Every receiver wants to catch the ball, but that's the way the system was. That's what the coaches wanted. It was my first year. I was learning the game, and the season worked out all right."
After the season was over former receivers coach Kenith Pope admitted privately he should have utilized Fletcher more, but don't expect the new staff to make the same mistake. "He's a deep threat for us, especially because he can run and he's big," Eric Price said. "When you throw the ball up in the air Zach can go up and catch it and come down with the ball."
Last season all but one of Fletcher's seven receptions went for 24 yards or longer, and two (both from Brodie Croyle) were 50-yards plus. "Brodie's just about a receiver's dream," Fletcher said. "He loves the deep ball, and I love to catch the deep ball. It works out."
Croyle and Fletcher hooked up on a memorable 50-yard bomb versus Arkansas to seal that key victory. On the play Croyle threw the ball more than 60 yards in the air with a streaking Fletcher catching up to it in the endzone.
"A lot of quarterbacks will tell you they like the deep ball, when all they're really doing is throwing the football as far as they can," Fletcher explained. "But Brodie can really throw the deep ball. I was used to catching footballs right at me or behind, but with Brodie you have to give an extra boost (of speed) to get to his passes."
In last Saturday's scrimmage work Fletcher turned in a performance that has become commonplace for him this spring, catching three passes for 35 yards, including the only offensive touchdown of the morning.
"So far things are going really well," Fletcher acknowledged. "This is actually my first spring practice at Alabama, but it's really going good enough for me. I've improved. Right now I'm a better receiver than I was last year. I'm more mature. I need to improve running my routes. Learning everything all over again is the main thing."
Fletcher's position coach agrees. "Zach is doing a great job," Eric Price said. "He's a real coachable kid. Just tell him what you want and he goes out and does it. I'm working to get him to realize that the little things will help him become a better receiver. He's believing that and taking the coaching to heart."
Yesterday following practice Head Coach Mike Price characterized Fletcher as the fastest starting receiver on the squad. "The coaches are just telling me ‘Good job' and ‘Keep up the good work,'" Fletcher said. "Right now we're learning the offense and getting coordinated with the quarterback. We're all learning. It's just a little playbook right now. Later it'll be a real thick one. It won't be so many routes, but it'll be more plays. Different plays for different people. More stuff."
"The new offense is a receiver's dream," Fletcher continued. "When you throw the ball twice as much in a game as you did the year before, every receiver loves that. This is the type offense you want to be in as a receiver."
Fletcher sports a full repertoire of routes in his receiver's resume', but he especially excels going deep. Numerous times this spring he's gotten behind his man, hauling in the long pass for a score. "We've got one guy going deep on every play," Fletcher explained. "The ‘touchdown guy' is what we call him. Every play has a man going for the score. No matter what the play, there's at least one guy going long."
Eric Price explained the simple but effective philosophy. Force a defense to respect the deep pass, and it opens up shorter routes underneath as well as the running game.
Of course if the defensive back gets beat long, that's okay, too. "We work on that every single day in practice," Price said. "Zach is going to get a lot of chances to make those plays.
"We just hope he'll make them in the games next fall."