Carlos Suggs, the "old man" of the Rebel receiving corps, but still only a rising junior, has heard all the talk about the wide receivers being a perceived weakness of the offense, and he understands it.
"We, as a group, haven't done anything yet," Suggs, a 6-5, 202-pounder, said. "We lost everyone who played a lot from last year. We are all inexperienced and have a lot to learn. I can see where people might think that."
But that doesn't mean Carlos has to agree with the assessment.
"We know we have a lot of work to do, but we feel good about ourselves," he continued. "We are working hard and feel we have something to prove. We know some people are expecting us to just step aside when the freshmen get here, but we have different plans."
Carlos admits he let last year get to him some and he has regrets about his actions.
"I wasn't playing much because the coaches wanted to go with the veterans to try to snap us out of the losing. I understand that," he said, "but it was still discouraging and I let it get to me. I should have been mentally tougher than that, but you learn through your mistakes."
Suggs took a long look at his situation at the end of last year and assessed what he had to do to improve his stock as a wide receiver.
"It's mostly a matter of being a more consistent receiver. Every year, you have bigger, stronger, faster goals in the offseason. That never changes. But mine situation goes beyond that.
"In order for me to gain the trust of the coaches, I have to become more consistent catching the ball."
He approached Strength & Conditioning Coach Aaron Ausmus about what he could do to improve his hands. Ausmus had a plan, something he saw work effectively when he was at Southern Cal.
"Coach Ausmus told me that he saw (former USC WR) Mike Williams improve his hands via two methods - catching as many passes as possible and by catching tennis balls thrown at him," Suggs noted. "The theory is that if you can catch something as small as a tennis ball, you can catch a football. The focus required to catch something smaller is greater."
So after every workout in the weight room, Carlos caught hundreds of tennis balls and hundreds of passes from the jugs machine.
"I can tell a big difference in my hands. I'm more consistent than I've been and my concentration is a lot better."
Carlos, who teammates call 'Los, has a lot on his plate, but he's trying not to let it overwhelm him.
"I'm the oldest wide receiver so I'm trying to be a leader and help the younger guys out. I'm also trying to make my game better. I'm also trying to learn a new offense," he explains. "That's a lot to do in one spring, but I'm staying focused and working hard at it.
"The new offense has a lot of differences. The cadence is different and is important to what we are trying to do. The routes and blocking are a little different too, but it's nothing we shouldn't be able to master in spring."
Carlos is both excited and challenged by the prospects of the freshmen coming in this summer.
"I'm glad we are getting help at wide receiver. I will help them all I can, but at the same time I'm not going to just move over and give them my spot. They'll have to earn it just like I'm trying to earn it," he stated. "The guys who are here in spring have a huge advantage over the freshmen in that we will know the offense and the techniques the coaches are teaching. It will take them time."
Carlos will continue with his basic goals in the offseason after spring training.
"I'm eating like a horse right now trying to gain weight, but my metabolism is still racing. I've put on four or five pounds since last year, but I want more. Ideally, I'd like to be 215 pounds, but I'm staying around 202 right now," he closed. "Even though I'm not gaining much weight, I have gained a lot of strength in the last 12 months and that's important too. I also feel faster due to my added strength.
"I will also catch a lot of tennis balls this summer. I'm determined to be a guy the coaches and the fans trust at wide receiver. The whole group feels that way."
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