Austin on State of the Receivers

Senior wide receiver (and coach for a day) Terrence Austin talked Thursday about the state of the wide receivers, how the younger guys are developing, what they need to do in the off-season, and his expectations...

Terrence Austin and the Bruins' other seniors had a chance to be coaches on Thursday during their final spring practice at Spaulding Field, which gave the receiver an interesting perspective as he discussed the development of the UCLA passing game, as well as redshirt freshman quarterback Kevin Prince and some of the young receivers.

There is, obviously, work to be done.

But Austin, who led the Bruins with 53 receptions last season, sees progress with some of the younger players, who are trying to develop into competent receivers.

"Right now, ending up the spring, I think we're looking decent. But we've got a lot of work to do," Austin said. "The timing is coming along – it's not where we want it to be yet – but it's coming along. I think the wide outs, with the connection of running the routes in and running the routes right, it still needs a little bit more work because we have a lot of young guys still, the quarterback situation is still fresh, so we've got a whole lot of work to do."

Would you have expected it to be a little farther along?

"Yeah, I do think so. But we had a lot of guys that were older last year, so most of the guys that are young now, they didn't really get a chance to get the feel of the stuff. That's really what spring is for – for the guys that haven't really had a chance or the guys that have got a chance they have to fine tune, so going into camp it won't be too much of a practice deal, so we can start getting ready for the season. That's all it is really."

What has to happen for you guys this summer then? Is it getting out here more than usual? "It's going to have to be done that way. It's not going to work any other way. We're going to get out here, do 7-on-7 and stuff, try to get that timing down with the QBs and receivers. I mean, even if we weekend the quarterbacks get out here with the receivers on our own, we've got to do something. If we want to be better, we have to do that. That's the only way it's going to happen."

So what are the chances of that happening, working three or four times during the week and then everyone deciding, you know what, we need to be back out here tomorrow?

"For me, I work out all the time. I think it's a great possibility that will happen. Guys that are vets now, we're really tired of what the season outcomes have been the last couple of years. I can speak for myself, I'm not really happy with how it's turned out. I want it to be better. And the only way it's going to get better is if we take advantage of situations like that."

Can you say whether you're close or...

"We've still got a lot of work. I think that we've shown steady improvement. But we want to fix the passing game and we are getting better, without a doubt. I'm seeing a lot more improvement that I saw last year. And it could be because we have the same offense and the same coaches for a second year in a row, which is something that's always good. I think we are moving toward steady improvement. We will be better."

You can answer this as a coach or a player, but it seems like some of the receivers aren't coming back to passes, aren't getting after it or making plays on the ball in the air. Is that something that they need to do a lot more aggressively?

"Yeah, and I can speak to that myself. I mean, when I first got here as a freshman, I was worried about a lot of other things instead of just playing, and I think some of the guys who aren't as experienced aren't really worrying about those things. They're worried about, ‘What am I supposed to be doing on this route? How many yards am I supposed to be running?' And I think they're more focused on that rather than the tangible things of being a receiver. I know it took me a while, because I hadn't been a receiver forever."

But, as I recall, you always did those things...

"Yeah, because I worked on it. I did a lot of repetition. I got to the point where I was used to running routes and I was used to coming out of my break looking for the ball and getting ready to catch it. That's what I think it is."

Do you think, for the outside guys, that is the thing that needs the most work this summer?

"It's everything, really. But those type of things, I think it comes with being athletic. Anybody can run routes and get good depth and come out of a route a certain way, but the real part of becoming a receiver is when you become athletic and you use that athletic ability to get the ball. That's where it comes from."

OK, so how many receivers do you have right now and how many are still learning that?

"I think for the most part most of us are athletic. Like Nelson Rosario, he's a receiver. Antwon Moutra, he's a receiver. Jerry Johnson is working, he's been improving a lot and I think that he's definitely going to come up in a little bit. Morrell Presley, he's a hybrid, but right now he's focusing on trying to get the plays down and stuff. He's fresh to the game, so he's not able to concentrate on his receiver tactics yet because he's trying to get that down. But all of that will come."

Just working with the quarterbacks, do you like what you've seen from Kevin Prince?

"Oh, yeah. I'm really impressed with Kevin. He has a quick release and he's trying to show some leadership capabilities at quarterback and that's what you want, regardless of how old he is or how long he's been in the system. He's showing that he has the potential to be a leader and that's what a team needs. Offensively, you want your quarterback to be able to be out there and try to lead you in tough situations.'"

He's good in the huddle and everything?

"Yeah, really good."

So, putting that all together, I'm thinking the timing is an issue.

"That's definitely what we've been trying to focus on, and that can be fixed in 7-on-7 without a doubt because you don't need an offensive line to get the timing down between the quarterback and the receivers. The offensive line is supposed to protect and give you that amount of time. We're all going to get together as a group regardless. We're going to try to get 11-on-11 out here so we can get the whole look and focus on that. But timing is something we're definitely trying to mandate."

And that's rep, rep, rep...

"It's repetition, getting the receiver to a certain depth and the quarterback getting back and trusting that the receiver is going to be in a certain area so he can release the ball on time, so he doesn't have to worry about getting sacked or anything like that."

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