Beathard Has Receiving Corps Looking Good

With All-American running back Rashard Mendenhall moving on to the NFL, the Fighting Illini football team is placing renewed emphasis on improving its passing attack. Responsible for preparing wide receivers for this task is Coach Kurt Beathard. Now in his second season with the Illini, Beathard sees potential in his receiving corps.

"We've got a good group, a fun group. We're deep, I think we're more talented overall, but we're young. The good thing is they're making steps every single day and competing their butts off."

Kyle Hudson and Jeff Cumberland have the most playing experience on the outside. Will Judson saw some game action as well. Chris James joins the group after being sidelined last year with knee surgery.

Chris Duvalt shows promise after a move from cornerback this spring. Freshman Fred Sykes has potential but is just learning the system. And Jarred Fayson is a 5-Star athlete who must sit out this year after transferring from Florida.

"If they can compete and work hard at it, they're going to get better. And I think there's a lot of want-to in that group. You expect them to be great right now, but it's been 9 practices in for some of them. I'm excited about the group."

Illinois uses a large number of receivers in its spread offense, so competition is essential in producing quality depth.

"They're pushing each other, and the competition's there. They're watching each other get better, and we're demanding of them. Coach Locksley's demanding that we get better in a hurry. We can't wait. We've got to get as good as we can as soon as we can."

Outside receivers must perfect techniques of route running and gaining separation from defensive backs plus be downfield blockers for the running game. It is far more complex that it appears, so repetition is essential.

"We put a lot of stuff in. Coach Locksley's philosophy and our philosophy is to throw everything in, let them get the hang of it, then go back and repeat it. Now, they're in the review part of it. Now they're going back over it, learning what they've learned. Now, it should come a little bit better to them."

Coach Beathard is reluctant to single anyone out, but overall he sees more athleticism than in the past.

"I believe so overall, top to bottom. We don't have Kyle Hudson. He's playing baseball, so his athleticism isn't on the field yet. So add him to the mix and we're pretty athletic."

The Illini also anticipate adding receivers Cordale Scott and A. J. Jenkins to the mix come fall. They have outstanding credentials, and they will be given the chance to play early.

"Oh, yeah. We're going to get the best players on the field. They're good, and we're hopeful they get playing time. That's why we recruited them."

Fayson is not yet at full strength, but down the line he will be an outstanding prospect at receiver.

"We're kind of holding him back because he has a kind of a hamstring strain. But he's working his way into it. He's not full speed. He's getting back into shape."

Coach Beathard's background includes tours of duty at Western Carolina and Eastern Kentucky, so he has numerous recruiting contacts in North Carolina. His background there helped the Illini attract top quarterback prospect Jacob Charest.

"I love him as a player. I recruited him for three years, two before I came here. I knew he was going to be an upper level player when I was at Eastern. If he ever slipped through the cracks, that would have been my first choice.

"Right when I got here, I let Coach Locksley look at him and evaluate him, and we moved on from there."

What makes Charest special?

"He used to be a wrestler. He's a tough kid as a player, and he's got a quick release. He'll sit in the pocket and fire the ball. He's got a little bit (of a loop in his throwing motion), but so did Archie Manning and a bunch of other people. It's something that with his quick release, those things are fixable."

Illini Inquirer Top Stories