Shields Recovers from ‘Mini-Slump'

The sophomore slump is not a term that receiver Sam Shields wants to hear. Usually that stigma isn't handed out during spring practice, but in Coral Gables , with a demanding fan base and a new coaching staff pushing players to the limit, sometimes players can get labeled early.

Some would say that Shields was suffering from a "mini-slump." He went largely unnoticed during the Hurricanes' first open scrimmage, not a good sign for a receiver. On Tuesday; however, Shields had a great practice and earned praise from offensive coordinator Patrick Nix.

"I did fine," Shields said about Tuesday's practice. "All the mistakes that we made in the scrimmage, we got those past us today. We fixed that and came out and had a good practice today."

During the scrimmage, the offense featured the passing game the vast majority of the time, throwing 65 times between quarterbacks Kyle Wright and Kirby Freeman. The results were lackluster at best, but the blame did not fall squarely on the shoulder of the quarterbacks, as Shields explained.

"The receivers made simple mistakes: dropped balls, wrong routes, lazy routes, and not making blocks. We made mistakes but watched some film and came out today and made some corrections. We practiced hard today."

"I did poorly, but some days you have bad practices, others you have good ones. That scrimmage I ran some lazy routes and dropped some passes. I just didn't have a good practice [on Saturday]."

Shields credited watching extra film for his correcting the problem. If watching extra film didn't correct the problem, the extra drills at the end of practice probably did. Shields and the rest of the receivers stayed about 45 minutes after practice to work on catching passes and running through the gauntlet. By the time Shields came around to do interviews, he was visibly tired and had to take a seat before answering questions.

Fortunately for Shields, receivers will be a big part of the offense in 2007 (if the spring practices are any indication). Patrick Nix has stated on more than one occasion that he will use the best playmakers available, and that he wasn't committed to having a fullback on the field at all times. The open scrimmage coincided with his words, as the Hurricanes opened up in a three wide receiver set. Shields is excited to play in such a wide open and unpredictable offense.

"We're going to mix a lot of things up," he said about the offensive gameplan. "We're going to have a lot of 4 receivers, 3 receivers, mixing the backs up. It's going to be some fun out there. They're going to do a lot of creative stuff, receivers, quarterbacks, we are all working on making some things happening. We try it in practice and whatever works we keep, whatever doesn't work we throw out."

While it may be way too early to pass judgment on Shields' sophomore season, Sam himself does recognize that his game needs improvement. His goal since December has been to improve his strength.

"My goal is still to get stronger, so that I can get off the release. I'm working hard at it, and I think I'll be alright."

He reports that he's well on the way to achieving those goals, but also recognizes that there's always room for improvement. He'll certainly get plenty of opportunities to showcase his improvements throughout the year, and if his maturity and mindset are any indication, he'll most likely succeed.

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