As spring training concludes, the wide receiver depth chart still remains, as Coach Ed Orgeron says, "etched in sand," according to WR Coach Matt Lubick.
Yes, he knows who can do what and has a good idea on their strengths and what they need to work on individually to get ready for the 2005 season, but there's more to the equation than that.
"We are still working on different combinations and trying to determine some things in terms of how they all fit into this offense to give us the best chance to be productive," Lubick stated. "We have some versatile receivers who can play more than one position. Some run better routes than others, some block better, some are better inside, etc.
"Our job is to get the right players in the right places and we are still working on that."
Lubick said, as a group, he is pleased with several areas of progress in the wide receivers' development this spring.
"I'm very happy with the work ethic they have displayed," he continued. "They have excellent attitudes and they have competed very well. We have thrown a lot at them mentally with a whole new offense and a new way of doing things, but for the most part they are doing well in the execution department, they are lining up correctly and they know their assignments.
"We have, as I said, three or four guys who can play multiple spots and that gives us flexibility. We will be able to get more mismatches with that flexibility. We also have a physical group of kids – they have done an excellent job of blocking on running plays and screens."
While Lubick believes the foundation to be competitive is good, there are things he wants the receivers, collectively, to continue focusing on.
"As a group, we need to do a better job of catching the ball in our hands. The receiving mechanics of some of our kids are not up to par. Some have a tendency to look for the ball too early on deep patterns instead of running through the pass," Matt said. "We have to work on not letting the DBs widen us. We have to learn to fight to keep our width instead of being pushed outside. Some have to learn to attack more on their releases against the press instead of going wide. We have to eliminate the DB angles and learn to get on top in routes. Some of our guys are playing too high. They need to play lower and snap off their breaks better. If they play lower, they can plant their foot and get power in their cuts and have sharper breaks.
"There are a lot of little things that will make us better when we get them taken care of, and I believe we will between now and September."
As was noted, the depth chart is day-to-day. This was a close facsimile when we interviewed Lubick, but it was subject to change daily.
At what is called the ‘X' position, senior Mario Hill – who can also play the ‘Z' – was the top gun on that day.
"Mario has separated himself from the pack a little. He's been our most consistent pass catcher and route runner. His blocking has been excellent – he takes pride in it," Lubick began his individual assessments. "Mario needs to continue working on his flexibility and playing lower, but he's done well."
Senior Taye Biddle and freshman Burnell "Mike" Wallace are next in line.
"Taye needs to become more consistent catching the ball and in his overall game, but I have seen good improvement this spring. He's good against press coverage, but I think there are little things he can do to utilize his great speed better," Lubick added. "For a freshman, Mike has done well. He likes to compete and he may have the best catching fundamentals in our group. He needs work on his routes, but he has probably improved the most of any of them in that area this spring. He can be in our lineup next fall, but he needs to spend as much time as humanly possible in the weight room between now and then."
Junior David Dorrisand sophomore Daryl London round out the X.
"They are limited, but they can help the overall team if they understand their roles and carry them out. They are good kids who try hard and we're glad to have them out there, but they have plenty to do to get game ready," said Lubick.
At the ‘Z', senior Mike Espy is the leader of the pack.
"Mike has the capability to play the X, the Z and the F and he can produce at all three positions," Matt noted. "He has done a great job in run-blocking and he's shown he can do things with the ball in space. He has a knack to make good releases against press coverage and he's real smart. I'd like to see him spend his time getting more consistent catching the ball, but I've seen improvement there this spring."
Behind Espy is sophomore Carlos Suggs and junior Matt Pierce, who missed some of spring training with a bum ankle.
"Carlos has been a pleasant surprise. He has limited experience in the game of football, but he's enthusiastic about learning. He needs to catch a million passes in the offseason, but he's done a great job versus press coverage, he's extremely physical in the blocking game, he is conscientious and he plays hard. I like his upside," Lubick stated. "Matt's upside is that he catches the ball with his hands away from his body and he runs well with the ball in his hands. He has a knack for finding the cracks and seams in zone coverages . He needs to work on getting more physical in the blocking game and getting off DBs in press coverage. Matt is another player who can play the F for us."
In the Rebs' offensive system, the ‘F' receiver is the guy who can line up anywhere – offset fullback, slot, flanker, etc. That player must be versatile and must completely understand the concepts of the offense and different assignments from different positions. The main guy there is none other than senior Larry Kendrick, who it appears this coaching staff has found a natural home for.
"Larry is very versatile. He's the guy who will have to be all over the place – running routes, blocking, getting open in tight situations, carrying the ball on straight handoffs. He's done those things well. Larry is not the fastest player in our group, but he knows what to do with the ball when he gets it in his hands. He makes people miss," Lubick closed. "I'm excited about him."
WRs - 'Need work on the little things'
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