Apo looks to raise his game

Cougar fans have already seen what 61 catches for 936 yards and 10 touchdowns looks like after sophomore Cody Hoffman's season last year. The question is, what would the offense look like if they had another receiver with similar stats to accompany him?

For his freshman season in 2011, Ross Apo played in all 13 games and caught 34 passes for 453 yards and nine touchdowns. While those stats are decent for a freshman pass-catcher, Apo isn't anywhere near satisfied.

"Last season was just a good start for me," Apo said. "I got my feet wet, but I don't think I was near what my potential is. This year I have to step up my game and get where Cody [Hoffman] is. That's the plan."

Of course, that will only happen if Apo has fully recovered after dislocating his shoulder last March 19 during spring camp. It was an injury that required surgery.

"My shoulder feels good and they just don't want me to do anything dumb that's going to hurt the shoulder," said Apo. "I just have to get the strength back in it. I should be fine and good to go when the season starts."

Apo has not been cleared to fully participate in practice yet, although he does do most drills.

"When we do team [scrimmaging] the coaches tell me to stop and I don't participate in those as a precaution," Apo said. "As far as doing routes on air or catching drills, I'm able to do those, so when we do catching drills I'm able to do those."

There was, however, a bit of a scare during Monday's one-on-one drills. Apo broke off the line of scrimmage and into his route. In close coverage was walk-on junior college defensive back Adam Hogan. Throughout camp, the coaches have been very adamant about keeping players off the ground in order to avoid injuries.

However, Apo went crashing down to the ground after Hogan collided with him.

Apo got up slowly from the ground as trainers went out onto the field. Along the sidelines, Apo walked off whatever soreness he felt from the spill. Hogan, meanwhile, was kicked out of practice for the excessive contact.

Apo hasn't had a lot of success with staying healthy during his college career. That's a scenario that will have to change if he plans on reaching his goals.

"I have to step up my game this year," Apo said. "I sat down and came up with some goals, and I want to reach 1,000 yards this year. There were a lot of passes that I should have come down with last year that I didn't make."

This year, barring any injury, there should be no excuses.

"I don't have any excuses this year not to do it," Apo said. "As far as touchdowns, you know, I just want to beat my last year's touchdown performance of nine. The focus is to get better every year and that's what I'm looking at."

Apo's productivity will also be influenced by Coach Doman.

"Coach Doman has a year under his belt and I think this year, now that he's the offensive coordinator, he's had a chance to work with everybody," Apo said. "When he was just with the quarterbacks, that was his focus, but that's changed now. He's kind of had a chance to work with everybody and now he knows everybody's abilities and how we work."

Coach Doman has taken a hard look at the talent on the roster, exploring ways in which he can better utilize players' individual strengths.

"I think he designs the plays well for everybody to get the ball however is the best way for them to get the ball," Apo said. "I've seen a difference in our offense and how we do things now that Coach Doman is our offensive coordinator from last spring and in this fall camp so far.

"He's doing a great job of exploiting the strengths of our players to match his offense. From our running backs to our receivers he's really making the most of what we all have and can do. He's great at getting the right people the ball, based on where their strengths are at. That's why I also feel I don't have any excuses this year. It should be a good year for me this year."

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