BEREA, Ohio— Al Saunders has coached plenty of wide receivers over nearly fifty years roaming the sidelines.
He’s coached Hall of Famers, Pro Bowlers and has even helped one make a successful switch from collegiate quarterback to NFL receiver in Antwaan Randle El.
All of his expertise and experience has led Saunders to Cleveland, where he’s been tasked with molding a group of young receivers into a formidable flock of pass catchers.
Thus far, he’s been impressed with the group, despite its inexperience.
“I think if you took our roster and looked at every single receiver we have, in my opinion, every one of those guys has the capability of playing in the National Football League,” Saunders said. “Some qualities and some needs from other teams and from our team will differ, but I think they all have the physical skills.”
Of course, Saunders knows that the Browns won’t be able to keep all of Cleveland’s five rookie receivers this season, but he’s working with each equally to ensure an opportunity for all stay aboard.
“I’ve always treated everybody like a first-round draft choice,” Saunders said. “I treat Corey Coleman no different than I treat our free-agent wide receiver Dennis Parks because to me, that’s my job. My job is to make sure that they do the very best job they can and to watch their improvement.”
Though Coleman and Parks may be treated equally, the first-round Baylor product has been far more impressive in camp thus far, making big-time plays in Cleveland’s first full-padded scrimmage this year.
Saunders has seen the flashes first-hand and is thinking of ways in which to utilize the rookie's game to maximize his production.
“He’s got undeniable speed and what we’ve got to be able to do is teach him to get out of his breaks with efficiency,” Saunders said. “We’ve got to be able to separate laterally as well as we separate vertically.”
Coleman admitted that it’s going to be tough to learn some of the new techniques a new offense, but he’s happy to have Saunders around to help him.
“He’s making me a better player in every phase of my game,” Coleman said. “He’s teaching me, he’s telling me knowledge, what I need to do and it’s exciting.”
On the other end of the spectrum is Terrelle Pryor, who is quite a bit taller and not nearly as quick as Coleman.
Still, Pryor has made plays for the Browns, including two touchdown catches at the team’s scrimmage at Ohio Stadium in Columbus.
Saunders feels that the former Buckeye is still a work in progress, but he couldn’t be any further along in that progress than he is currently.
“We couldn’t be any more happy than where Terrelle is right now,” Saunders said. “It’s not all going to happen overnight. It’s going to take time. This is his first exposure to that position. Myself, personally, I couldn’t be anymore thrilled with where he is right now.”
As he continues to teach the group of wide receivers, Saunders is filled with excitement and enjoyment. This is his favorite time of camp, when he can truly teach the young players without having to worry about making the difficult decisions.
Those choices will come, but as of now, he just wants to watch the group in its first preseason action against Green Bay on Friday.
“They’re kind of like my kids, maybe my grandkids at my age. They’re wonderful kids,” Saunders said. “What happens and where everybody ends up, we haven’t even started to evaluate that yet because we haven’t played football yet.”
For all of your Browns news and updates from Berea, follow Hayden Grove on Twitter: @H_Grove