Fuller Takes Flight

Will Fuller can go get it. Now he has to learn the art of allowing it to come to him.

"It" in this case, is a spiraling football. Thrown high, outside, away, or far in front, there's a good chance Notre Dame's sophomore speedster is going to draw a beat on it.

Fired into his awaiting hands, however…

"His drops are specific," said head coach Brian Kelly of Fuller's two drops (and bobble) through two games this season. "Specific to wanting to turn quick, short routes where he stops his feet into bigger plays. When he's moving his feet, he's pretty good. His concentration (is better), he looks at the ball into his hands, so (drops) are specific…they're specific to him getting away from guys after his catch.

"He dropped a hitch route (against Michigan), he dropped (bobbled) a quick screen into the boundary, and it was simply just pulling his eyes away from the catch, so we can work on those things."

What's difficult for many appears to come easily to Fuller.

"Yeah, probably so," he said of his increased concentration on more difficult receptions, namely a leaping 24-yard touchdown to end the half last week against Michigan. "I think that's a comfortable catch for me. I feel like I always catch those, when I'm fading back and jumping like that."

It's something his head coach identified early.

"He tracked the ball as well as any guy that we recruited," said Kelly of Fuller's time at Roman Catholic High School (Philadelphia). "His ball skills were outstanding. The way he tracked the ball down the field, we didn't see a kid that -- first of all, his top end speed was outstanding. Tracking the ball with that kind of speed is a rare commodity, and those are the two things that stood out."

Fuller failed to cleanly catch his only touchdown last season, a deep post-route against Air Force. And he endured a definite case of the dropsies during media viewing periods last spring as well.

Amid a couple drops this fall has been utter dominance.

17 targets, 13 receptions, two touchdowns, and 174 yards -- many accrued after the catch.

The Notre Dame program hasn't had a player turn two yards into five, and five yards into 10, faster than does Fuller since Golden Tate put on a season-long show in 2009.

"I'm not sure where that comes from," said Fuller of his ability to be at full speed less than two steps into his gait. "Breezy (Chris Brown) talks about who's faster. He tells me I have 0-to-60 speed. He has 40-yard dash speed."

(Asked if Brown, a former high school triple-jump champion, can out-run him in a 40-yard dash, Fuller, offered, "I don't think so.")

The Leap

Offered by most Irish observers as Notre Dame's receiver that could take the top off a defense, Fuller has instead morphed into the 2014 version of a go-to receiver. That status would likely dissipate if senior pass-catcher DaVaris Daniels returns to the fold, or perhaps if the aforementioned Brown begins to make good on the promise he showed in August camp.

Until then, Fuller is the top target, with Golson looking his way 17 times through two contests. (Slot Amir Carlisle and tight end Ben Koyack are second on Golson's list with nine apiece.)

"It gives me a lot of confidence, but I still have to build on that connection with Everett during practice," said Fuller of increased attention from his quarterback. "Run my routes hard, every time I do anything, concentrating on it.

"Our receiving corps, we're a family. I'm not the go-to-guy because we all can get it done."

Asked what he needed to work on, Fuller didn't hesitate -- and catching the ball wasn't what immediately came to his mind.

"Getting out of my breaks, in and out of my cuts," he said. " I probably have to set up my routes better, use my speed more. I'm slowing down a bit in my break. It's technique. We (drill) getting out of breaks in individual time. You just have to translate it to 7-on-7, to team time, and to Saturdays."

He appeared to do so last week against the Wolverines. Fuller though believes a breakout game still awaits.

"I think it's a big step up, but not a breakout game," he said. "If I keep working and maybe I can have a better game."

Any better game would likely include multiple touchdowns and well over 100 yards. Perhaps double-digit receptions. Regardless of how much future success he enjoys, there's one past misstep Fuller knows he won't repeat -- no matter how many opportunities present.

"I wasn't even thinking, I can't even explain it. I was just excited," said Fuller of his first touchdown this season, a 75-yarder against Rice in which he sauntered a bit too slowly into the end zone for Kelly's taste. "We had a talk so I'm not going to do that again," he said with a smile. "Run into the end zone, get the ball to the ref."


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