"We want to try and keep the team chemistry that we've gained over spring camp and keep that rolling through the summer," said Cougar wide receiver Luke Ashworth. "We want to keep building on the great things the offense did."
So how exactly have they been doing that? Well, it's quite simple. It starts with a phone call from one of the team captains or by someone who feels they need some more work done to polish up on a few things. From there the players will gather and go through the motions as if they were involved with spring or fall camp.
"What happens is Max [Hall] and Brenden [Gaskins] will give the wide receivers a call and we'll meet up somewhere and do seven-on-seven drills all summer," said Ashworth. "I think that is how it is with all the leaders on the team. They'll call their guys and meet with them to do their drills. With Max it's great because he keeps on top of us and keeps encouraging us to keep coming back and running routes and all that jazz."
It takes a lot of personal motivation and team leadership to get the ball rolling, and that, quite honestly, is key to a team's personal development and progress while coaches are away.
"A lot of offseason workouts come through personal motivation and reinforcement," said Ashworth. "We're all really good buddies, so Max will call us or the wide receivers will call up the quarterbacks and plan a time to meet so we can continue our personal progress. We'll go over to the practice facility and run routes until we've perfected some aspect of the playbook. That is what Max and Austin [Collie] did so well last year. This is really the time in which you develop chemistry between you and the quarterbacks. This is also the time in which you really get your timing down between the receivers and the new quarterbacks."
The receivers and quarterbacks aren't the only ones participating in these voluntary offseason practices.
"What we also do is call up some of the defensive backs and say, 'Hey, we need some good looks so can you meet us out at the practice field at this time?'" Ashworth said. "They give us a good look at different coverages and stuff like that. That way it keeps us fresh and playing under more realistic conditions. I think we have more of an advantage this way than many of the other guys at other positions because we can actually simulate more realistic game-time [situations] or scrimmage exercises. We can actually go through more of the motions by running our actual routes and have someone try and defend us. I think for us as wide receivers, this gives us a chance to continue improving within our position. I think this will only allow us to get better as a group. I think this also helps them with their personal offseason development as well."
The summertime voluntary workouts allow the receivers and quarterbacks to work on aspects of their game that they might not necessarily have developed during spring camp. When not focusing on learning their position or how they fit within the offense, the quarterbacks and wide receivers learn more about each other. This important yet voluntary time creates greater chemistry, group cohesion and trust.
"All the receivers have specific talents that they bring to the field," Ashworth said. "This is a great time for us to learn from each other, so we all get together and talk about things from time to time and help each other on specific things that we do well. It's more about learning and growing together as a group rather than as an individual."
Summer workouts are not just about throwing and catching on the football field; the receivers will also get together with their pigskin-slinging counterparts and study film in the film room.
"We'll go into the film room over the summer and study film together," said Ashworth. "We'll even go in there with the quarterbacks and watch film with them too. That way we can get a better idea of what they're thinking and they'll let us know how we can better improve our routes within a specific play or something like that. They'll also critique us or let us know what we can do better, so that helps us be more on the same page with them."