“Going against Charles, every time it’s an adventure because he’s a great, great cornerback,” Marcus Herford said. “And I love going against him. It pushes me to that next level where I need to be at, and I want to play against tough cornerbacks because that’s how you get better. There’s just something about Charles that pushes me a little more than those other guys out there.”
Gordon also expressed admiration for Herford’s power and speed. But he hasn’t just been enjoying the wide receiver-cornerback matchup. Herford said that Gordon was also helping him along the way by teaching him the nuances of the wide receiver position.
“Mark Simmons and Charles Gordon have been helping me out on everything,” Herford said. “If I run a route bad, they’re going to let me know about it. They’re going to say, you should have stuck (your foot) here or there. Those guys are great leaders and they are helping me perfect my routes.”
Kansas coach Mark Mangino said that Herford’s route-running and polish as a receiver could use some work, but there’s no doubt that his size and athleticism give him excellent building blocks.
“We haven’t had that talented of an athlete at that wide receiver position with the exception of Charles Gordon,” Mangino said.
But Herford wasn’t always destined to be a wide receiver. Herford was once a touted three-star quarterback out of Cedar Hill, Tex. that used his 4.4-second speed, great size and strong arm to make plays. Even more impressive, Mangino said, were his intangibles, especially in the areas of intelligence and leadership. Mangino thought highly enough of him to take Herford on road trips where teams may only suit up a certain number of players.
When Herford won the Otto Schnellbacher award for scout team player of the year, expectations took off. Fans tabbed him as the quarterback of the future, and Mangino inserted Herford into the 1B quarterback position, the main guy to duel with Adam Barmann for the starting job.
Talking to Herford, one would get the impression that he doesn’t much enjoy the attention. He speaks quietly, answers questions with a soft ‘yes sir’ and looks genuinely, well, bashful. The built-up battle for the KU quarterback position ended hardly a week after it started. Herford was shipped off to become a wide receiver.
Mangino said that he wanted to find a way to get Herford’s athleticism on the field. Offensive coordinator Nick Quartaro said at the time that the switch was made more because the receiving corps was in desperate need of playmakers, and the powerful redshirt freshman fit the bill.
“As a quarterback, all you really do is hear what the receivers are talking about,” Herford said. “Now, as a receiver, I can see it. I can see at what points they break open on certain plays or routes because I’m running them and I know exactly when I should be getting it. I see exactly where to go, exactly what moves to make and how to get open.”
He may talk in a near whisper, but his play has been loud on the field. He drew rave reviews in spring practice, for his speed, strength, and his ability to make plays happen in the open field. During one scrimmage, Herford caught a bubble screen and was finally brought down 55 yards downfield. On another play he blew past the coverage for another long reception.
The quarterback of the future tag may have faded. That title now belongs to Kerry Meier, the talented freshman out of Pittsburg. Herford now fits nicely into the wide receiver rotation and should see plenty of time Saturday. Yet Mangino has said that Herford may get a chance at quarterback again in 2006. Either way, Herford said that he would be happy.
“Really my goals are just to help the team however I can, just do whatever possible to help us win,” Herford said. “We want to win the Big 12 championship and go to a bowl game."
“My thing is that I just want to help the team. If that means that they want me at receiver, I’ll play there, if they want me at quarterback, I’ll play that. Whatever they want, I’m willing to do.”
Willing to play whatever position assigned? He may have learned more from Gordon than just his play on the field.