Things have certainly changed in the past two weeks. Not that Gonzales is completely satisfied, he's not. But he is certainly seeing better performances out of his unit.
Part of the problem at receiver has been dealing with the absences of Riley Cooper (18-261, 3 TD) and David Nelson (12-228, 5 TD). That leaves Carl Moore (14-184, 1 TD) and Deonte Thompson (18-269, 3 TD) as the only experienced pass catchers in the group. Gonzales had hoped to see three redshirt freshmen emerge this spring, but only one of them, Frankie Hammond has made a move. T.J. Lawrence has had some good moments and Omarius Hines has been slowed by leg problems.
But Moore has been the top guy throughout spring drills. Gonzales said the senior's productivity improves as he masters the offense.
"When Carl plays fast he's pretty good. The issue with Carl is that when he's thinking you can really tell the difference. If Carl's sprinting off the ball, he does a pretty good job of getting open. It's when he thinks about 'what I have to do' or thinks about 'what release I should be using', that's when he gets himself in trouble. He's got to be prepared to come to the line of scrimmage expecting man to man coverage and be able to adjust on the run."
Gonzales pointed out the progress Moore has made this spring has not been surprising. He says it just takes three things – practice, practice, practice.
"It just going to come from all the reps you've been doing. Consistency comes with being comfortable and knowing what you got. If I know what I have then there's no thought process and you can play fast. If you play fast and you make mistakes, I'm okay with it, but if you're thinking and you're iffy and you're coming off the ball slow then we have some issues we have to clean up."
Gonzales said Hammond has made a great deal of progress in learning the offense and what he has to do on each play.
"Frankie is extremely smart. He's one guy that's really been consistent. Now he's gotta be stronger so he can play more physical, but he's getting close to where he can play in this conference. He makes the (routine) local plays, but he's got to be consistent making the big plays."
As for Thompson, he's been slowed the last week with a sore hamstring, but was back out there for Saturday's scrimmage.
"He dropped a couple early, but he made some big plays and that's what he has to do. He's got great speed, but he has to play fast and be a (more) reliable guy."
Overall, Gonzales said the receiving corps' job description is pretty simple.
"The bottom line is when your number is called you have to make the play. These guys have the ability, but they have to get to the point where when (his) number is called, there's no thought process. When (Louis) Murphy's number was called, when Percy's (Harvin) number was called there was no doubt in anybody's mind they were going to make the play."
I asked Billy G how much he thinks Riley Cooper (18-261, 3 TD) has been hurt by missing the entire spring while playing baseball.
"Obviously when you get better is because you're practicing. Riley's extremely gifted. What happens with Riley is he knows the plays, he's been a starter but the thing that would hurt him is doing the little things. You get better from practice and doing those things every other day. The good thing about it is Coop's a proven guy. He's been in the fire. He's played through the season. He just needs to be consistent on the baseball field now and we'll get him back when we get him."
Gonzales said he's confident Cooper will be back for his senior season which would give the receiving corps three seniors with Cooper, Nelson and Moore. There has been some concern that Cooper might sign a pro baseball contract this summer, but his play on the diamond has all but eliminated that fear. Cooper is hitting just .247 with two HR and eight RBI. Lately he's seen freshman Daniel Pigott (.293, 2, 14) take away his playing time.
Billy G Sees Progress at WR
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