Young WRs challenge Lubick

Mike Espy? Gone. . . Mario Hill? Gone. . . Taye Biddle? Gone. . . Larry Kendrick? Gone. . . The Rebel wide receivers, for all intents and purposes, start from scratch in spring training. Read about it inside.

Everyone knew "it" was coming.

Unfortunately, there wasn't much way to prepare for that day.

As far as the Rebels are concerned, "it" has nothing to do with a shopping spree on e-bay. "It" is the fact four starting wide receivers, who knew what to do and when to do it and had tons of experience, are no longer on the Rebel football team.

"It" leaves Wide Receivers Coach Matt Lubick virtually starting over.

"We've got our work cut out for us," said Lubick, "but we've got some talent to work with. It's raw talent, but it's talent."

Spring training will officially begin March 4th, but Lubick's work with his young troops has already begun on a limited basis.

"We have four hours a week to work fundamentals without a ball and for chalk sessions," he said. "It's hard to tell if there is any carry over, but I guess we will know in two or three weeks.

"We are, as a group, very inexperienced, but we have time to learn what we need to know," Matt stated. "We will start with fundamentals and terminology. Fundamentals are basically the same in this new offense, but the terminology is quite a bit different.

"From there, we will go to proper route-running and working on our ball skills. Then to adjusting our routes based on what the defense is doing. Some of these are steps we didn't have to take or dwell on as much last year with the experienced players we had. This year is different."

But don't mistake Lubick's explanation for poor-mouthing.

"Like I said, we've got some talent," he noted. "There is also a lot of competition out there because everyone knows it's wide open. There is a lot of playing time out there for those who want to reach out and take it.

"Consequently, I see kids working harder in the offseason than they did last year. They are motivated because they know there is a chance for them to play a lot. They are also spending a lot of time preparing on their own, which is good to hear. With the competition we will have this spring, and everything being up for grabs, it's a healthy situation for improvement."

The flip side is that none of the candidates have enough experience to mention.

"None of them have really been under fire. None of them have game experience, to speak of," he continued. "And where will the leadership come from? Who will step up in that role? That will have to surface in the latter stages of spring. It could be any of them. That will be interesting to watch develop."

Currently, Lubick is working with seven scholarship players - senior Keith Houston, who ended last season as a tight end but has been mostly a defensive player during his career; junior Carlos Suggs, a journeyman who needs to take his game to the next level; sophomore Burnell Wallace, who got some playing time late last year; reshirt freshmen J.D. Lawhorn and Michael Hicks; redshirt frosh Tyson Andrus, who played DB last year; and true freshman Marcus Green, who joined the team mid-semester.

"Carlos is a big target who has the most experience, but he has to become more consistent catching the ball," Lubick stated. "Burnell showed flashes last year, but he has to show some maturity in his play this year. Keith has some maturity and experience, but not at this position.

"J.D. and Michael showed some talent last year, but are still learning the little nuances of wide receiver play. Tyson is brand new to the position. Marcus is brand new to the program."

While that sounds a little bleak, Lubick doesn't look at it that way.

"Keith, Carlos and Michael are big guys with good, not great but good, speed. Burnell, Marcus and Tyson have real good speed," he explained. "J.D. has great ball skills and route-running ability, plus he is shifty when he gets the ball in his hands.

"Our deal is to have a great spring in terms of improving from top to bottom."

Lubick can't afford to look forward to having some true freshmen who were signed - yet.

"We will concentrate on those guys when they get here. For now, we have to work double-time to get the ones already here ready for the SEC," he closed.

Who will be the next Espy? Hill? Biddle? Kendrick?

Vital questions, but ones Lubick hopes to answer in spring.

Stay tuned.

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