Where has Justin Gage Gone?

Lake Forest - Heading to Bourbonnais, Justin Gage was expected to challenge David Terrell for a starting job. Not only did that scenario fail to materialize, Gage has dropped completely off the map a quarter of the way through the season.

Despite only playing in 10 games a rookie with three starts; Gage was second on the team in gains of 20 yards or more with seven. He averaged 19.9 yards per reception.

Most of his big plays came in jump ball situations, which allowed Gage to use his basketball skills to out leap opposing cornerbacks.

Gage hasn't illustrated great route running skills that are important in the timing of Terry Shea's offense. Considering he didn't dedicate himself fully to football until his senior season at Missouri, he's still learning the nuances of the position.

Last year Gage survived on athletic ability to be successful in John Shoop's offense.

While Terrell has seen a boost in his numbers under Shea, Gage has just two receptions through four games. Not only are his numbers down, but also his chances to make plays have diminished.

"David's kind of taken over at X, so Justin has to get in when we sub our groups into the game, three receivers," Shea said.

Granted the emergence of Terrell means fewer opportunities for the rest of the group, but when rookie Bernard Berrian is more of a target at this point than Gage there is a problem.

"We're not disappointed with what he's done, but for whatever reason we just haven't gone to him that much," Lovie Smith said.

Earlier in the season Shea went out of his way to praise Daryl Jones and said the receiver needed to be more involved in the offense only to be waived shortly after.

The offense is designed to spread the ball around. Terrell has 16 receptions in two home games and has been shutout in two road games. Among wideouts, Bobby Wade is second with 12 receptions and Gage is tied for third with Berrian at two.

So it would seem Gage will get his share of balls as the season moves forward.

"David has stepped up a couple of times and proven he is in our one slot and the rest of the guys are really kind of in that next slot and any given Sunday any one of them could be the next guy in line," Smith said.

With a strong-armed quarterback struggling with his accuracy, it might make sense to throw the deep ball and allow Gage to use his leaping ability.

"It's still early in the season and we've still got some developing and growing to do, but I think it will come around," Gage said. "Being a receiver you just want to get the ball as much as you can on offense. This is part of the role I'm playing now, so I do whatever I can."

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