Spillman prepared for expanded role

Late last season, JaJuan Spillman emerged as one of the most dangerous kick return specialists in the nation, highlighted by his 100 yard return for touchdown at Rutgers. This year, the speedy sophomore is ready to take on a more expanded role on offense.

Late last season, JaJuan Spillman emerged as one of the most dangerous kick return specialists in the nation, highlighted by his 100 yard return for touchdown at Rutgers. This year, the speedy sophomore is ready to take on a more expanded role on offense.

Since Camp Kragthorpe opened a week and half ago, Spillman has made an impact at the Z receiver position. During open practices, he consistently made plays in the passing game. And with Harry Douglas out for U of L's intra-squad scrimmage last Saturday night, Spillman stepped in and caught two passes for forty yards.

"From last year to this year I've built my confidence level up," Spillman told InsideTheVille.com. "I feel like the guys need me more so I've got to step up and help more."

Spillman worked hard during the summer to improve his receiving skills. He sought advice from star wide outs Harry Douglas and Mario Urrutia on how to improve his game and then he went out on the field and put in the work to get better.

"The biggest thing I've improved is my route running – I've improved my routes a lot," Spillman said. "Every time I run a route I ask Harry and Mario ‘how was my route?' So basically my route running and my catching ability has gotten better."


Spillman ready for bigger role as a soph.

While Spillman was dangerous as a kick returner last season (he ranked 11th in the nation with a 27.9 yard return average), he often struggled when given a chance in the passing game. The problem for Spillman wasn't getting open – he did that easily. The problem was catching the ball when it was thrown his way. That's something Spillman has worked hard to improve since the end of last season.

"I just worked at it during the off-season and stayed on the jugs (machine)," Spillman said. "When we had summer (workouts) I came in and just stayed out there and caught a hundred balls on the jugs by myself. A couple people would be out there but I tried to do that because I know that was a weak point in my game last year. My hands weren't that good – maybe it was because I was nervous and it was my first year after sitting out a year. I think I have just got back into the flow of catching."

He's also learned a lot learn from veteran teammates Douglas and Urrutia.

"Being around those two helps me a whole lot because I know they asked for advice when they were doing things wrong too," Spillman said. "Their advice and just watching them –after a while doing things the right way just comes natural to you."

Douglas, in particular, has sort of taken Spillman under his wing.

"I think right now Harry has taken me under his wing because that's who I backup," Spillman said. "I play the same position as Harry and I do everything that he does. Every route he runs, I do too."

Spillman's improvement was on display last Saturday during the public scrimmage. With Douglas sidelined, Spillman stepped in and made plays, connecting with quarterback Brian Brohm down field for some big gains.

"When Harry was out, (Brian) had to look for another option and he was trying to see who was going to make big plays and step up," Spillman said. "So I think me and Brohm are connecting much better."

With his receiving skills much improved, Spillman expects to find an expanded role for himself in the passing game this year. Just how much his role will grow, though, remains to be seen.

"Basically it going to be the same thing, mostly on special teams, but they look forward to me doing more things in our offense," Spillman said. "I'm kind of a person who can come in and give Harry and Mario a (rest) and we won't lose a beat. So my role is getting bigger on offense this year."

While his role on offense figures to be more significant this season, Spillman hasn't forgotten that his most important job for the team is to make big plays in the return game, something that comes naturally for the former PRP star.

"Like I tell my guys before we go out – if they block for 3-5 seconds that's all I need – I'm going to score," Spillman said. "I think being a running back in high school and having to go through holes has helped me see things that most people don't. I see the people coming down running full speed and I see what holes are open. So I just try to hit it as fast as I can."


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