The story is the same for the vast majority of players entering college to lay football. After gathering more and more fame and attention through their high school careers, they move on to the next level, only to find themselves at the bottom of the pecking order in terms of playing time and attention. A select few avoid a redshirt or get more than a few snaps on the field, but most go through that first season without any notoriety at all. Adjusting to that sudden change causes problems for some, but others adjust to it fairly well, and turn it into a positive experience. That seems to be the case for redshirt freshmen wide receivers Dante Campbell and K.J. Myers, both of who followed this path over the past few seasons.
"It was hard at times, getting redshirted," Campbell admitted. "I was down sometimes but figured it was better for me. I just got better, and now I am out there playing."
"It was tough at first," Myers added. "Redshirting is not something anyone wants to do, but it made me better. It made me hungrier to get on that field, and it made me want to work harder. I got stronger faster and worked on my routes. It benefited me in the long run.
"We [redshirts] all came together," Myers continued, "and we did workouts together. Dante and I are close friends and roommates now. We push each other and motivate each other."
Coaches across the country hope that a redshirt season helps players grow in many ways, both mentally and physically. Myers and Campbell, along with wide receiver assistant Shannon Dawson, all think that has happened for the receiving duo.
"Those two kids worked their [butts] off the whole year ," Dawson said. "That's the benefit of Coach Joseph and the guys in the weight room. The people that they are now, physically, is just way different from where they were a year ago. Some of that has to do with the natural maturation, from turning from 18 to 19, but mindset wise they are on a whole other level than they were as true freshmen."
"My routes, my hands and understanding the defense and the coverages are some of the things that have improved the most," Myers detailed. "A lot of the time during the season, I was just watching, but I was taking mental notes. I learned how to get open more. I worked on getting off the line and getting off the press coverage. I worked on my hands and getting into and out of my breaks. They are little things, but there are a lot of them, and they all add up. It's a lot more to work on than in high school, and there's a lot more mental stuff involved."
For Campbell, it's the coming together of all those improvements that have made a difference.
"After the spring, I have a lot more confidence. I have learned to play, and that time as a redshirt helped me better my craft. I feel like I can go out there and contribute, because everything improved. Down there working against the first team defense, it was hard on us, but it made us better."
The pair is very confident that they learned a lot of lessons during their season away from active competition, but they also count working with Geno Smith during the summer as an important point. Familiarity with the starting quarterback is important in making the passing game a success, and receivers and QBs that aren't in sync typically aren't very productive.
"During the off-season we developed that rapport with Geno. It's normal with me now," Campbell said. "Going with Geno or Paul Millard, it's the same."
"It was not a problem getting used to Geno," said Myers, even though the redshirts worked mostly with backup quarterbacks last year. "Over the summer we do so much work, and we get work with all of the quarterbacks. The connection is there."
Year away from competition to improve: Check. Developed rapport with starting QB: Check. What's left? Doing it on the field.
"It is a great feeling to get back out on the field. I haven't played a football game in almost a year," Myers noted. "But I feel like I have started out well, and that this is my year to get back out there and help my team win."
Of course, Dawson is the person that Campbell and Myers have to impress, and he's anxiously awaiting their return to the limelight as well. Asked if he believes the duo can be ready and play at least a contributing role in the 2013 receiving corps, his answer was a simple one.