Having foot speed and being ready for the speed of the game are entirely different things.
Ask one Markell Pack, who as a true freshman last season was asked to not only take on a role in the wide receiver rotation but when Punt Returner Carlos Davis went down in August and Anthony Alford left early in the season to pursue his professional baseball career, Markell was asked to take over as the number one punt returner, a scary proposition for a true freshman.
"The speed of the game on this level," he said. "There's just no comparison between high school and college. It was tough to get things to slow down, but I felt like I adjusted a little each week as the season went on."
Even though Markell has plenty of foot speed, it took some time for the game to slow down for him mentally, thus, in punt return duties, he played it conservatively, only returning 18 kicks all year for 96 yards, a 5.3 yards per kick average. The flip side was that he didn't lose the ball, which was priority number one for a rookie return man.
At wide receiver, he played in all 13 games and caught 14 balls for 173 yards. Not too shabby for the fifth receiver behind Laquon Treadwell, Vincent Sanders, Cody Core and Quincy Adeboyejo, not to mention TE Evan Engram.
"I felt I did OK, but I knew I needed to keep working on my craft," Markell stated. "In spring ball, things really slowed down and since them, I have been getting drills with my teammates and the quarterbacks, working my craft and feeling better and better about my game every day."
So far in August camp, Markell is pleased.
"It's way better than last year. It's crazy how much a year can change how you play on this level. I'm way more comfortable and confident in the offense and in everything we are doing," he noted.
Pack is also excited about the three quarterbacks who are getting all of the primary work in camp.
"I like them all. They are all three really good QBs," he said diplomatically, but with meaning. "They are all smart, they all make good decisions and they are all competitive."
He's also a fan of the two rookie wideouts, DaMarkus Lodge and Van Jefferson.
"They have caught on really fast, faster than I thought they would," Markell stated. "I tell them that things move really fast on this level and they are going against one of the top defenses in the country. I tell them that's good for their development and to play fast. You can correct mistakes as you go as long as you are playing fast."
Markell's goals are pretty simple now that he has gained a certain level of comfort.
"I just want to stay healthy throughout the season and be more consistent in all the things I do - route-running, catching the ball, blocking, whatever," he closed. "I just want to keep improving my craft little by little."
Markell Pack has already seen a big jump in his game from year one to this year, his sophomore campaign.
Look for his impact to increase this season.
He's finally caught up with the speed of the game in the SEC.
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