SDSU Coach Tom Craft on Kassim Osgood

Gene Bartow was a week away from the San Diego State campus when Chargers Update spoke with SDSU Head Coach Tom Craft in regards to Kassim Osgood who surprisingly went undrafted in the 2003 NFL Draft and was subsequently signed by the San Diego Chargers a day later.

Kassim Osgood is a Cal-Poly transfer who was awarded All-Conference honors last season catching 108 passes for 1,552 yards with 8 scores. A former D-IAA All-American, he set an NCAA record with 376 receiving yards in a single game. Oz originally began his college career as a defensive back.

A lot of people in San Diego know of Kassim Osgood the Aztec, what sets him apart from undrafted free agents coming into the NFL?

"Well even though Kassim hasn't played at the Division I level up until this year really had an outstanding, productive year and I think he really proved himself based on his year and it wasn't that we were just trying to get him the ball. JR Tolver, on the other side, led the nation in receiving yards. The two tandem, what an unusual situation for them."

And great for you…

"Fantastic for us. Starting a new system and having the success that they did with a new quarterback, it is really phenomenal what those players achieved. Kassim has got great range, he can run after the catch and I think it provided an opportunity as a free agent to sign on a team which he would be the best fit and the best opportunity. And if he is not going to get drafted and the fact that he got to pick and selected the Chargers was a great fit and a great opportunity.

"I think James Lofton – Kassim is close to being like a James Lofton. A tall, physical receiver and I am sure James will be able to give him some great advice on how to play that position."

Does he use his size well to shield defenders away?

"I think he did. A big guy like that a lot of times it is easy to get a piece of him but I think that he really worked on his footwork and his hand speed to enable him to get off the line of scrimmage and I know James will teach him some more tricks of the trade at that level."

What brought Osgood from Cal Poly?

"I don't know I wasn't here and he redshirted when he was here. The thing that I heard is he wanted to have an opportunity to play at a higher level and I think he has achieved great success where he was and now that he has been able to do what he did in one year – it was kind of a great closing chapter to his college career – what he did."

Were you surprised he went undrafted?

"Possibly. I don't really understand that whole process very well because I am not involved in it. I know that what he did this year on the field, what he demonstrated certainly he would have gotten the interest he deserves and even though he was a free agent I think that he will have an opportunity to prove himself and whether he is a fourth round draft pick or a third or a second, he is going to have a chance to prove himself and that's all with the perfect fit.

"You look at JR -- it is the same type of deal for him.

"So I am really happy that both of those guys are getting the opportunity. I know that they are going to be able to turn some heads and surprise some people. That part won't surprise me."

Kassim Osgood was disappointed that he did not get drafted, but had prepared himself for that scenario after a painfully slow 40 time at the NFL Scouting Combines. He was in San Diego with friends watching the festivities at a barbecue.

"He has a great work ethic too, and all those things go a long way."

I think the speed thing with the combines is a little overvalued. It is the on the field speed that I care about.

"That gets into that functional aspect of the game. Sometimes somebody can run a 4. or 4.4 but they don't play quite that fast and you can have somebody, and I think that is the old Jerry Rice analogy, he wasn't always the fastest receiver but he wasn't somebody you could catch all the time and he got in and out of breaks and not change his speed when he was changing his direction like a lot of straight sprinters do. So I think Kassim has some of those good qualities about him and I think his range – he plays a little bit bigger than a 6-4 guy. That's also another aspect that makes him valuable."

We know that Kassim had a record season with the Aztecs what is the best route that he runs, something you know you could always call in the huddle and he would be right there?

"You know he was really good on the drive route, the drag route; he did a great job on that. I think he was always good on anything where he had to run away from the secondary. He wasn't – JR was pretty good running away from the quarterback on some of the deep stuff. He really did a great job of leveraging that.

"I thought Kassim was pretty dynamic on being able to separate from the secondary, defensive back, whether he was coming back to the quarterback in any fashion or running away in a lateral position. And then he comes up with that game wining catch, I mean that was a phenomenal catch against Air Force where he is running away and leverages the ball and catches it with one hand. He has been able to prove that he can do it all."

Osgood put the Aztecs up 31-27 with that spectacular 31-yard touchdown Coach Craft speaks so glowingly about with 5:23 left, leaping over two defenders for the one-handed catch before barely getting his feet down in the back of the end zone. Osgood had 12 for 123 yards on the day.

"I think that is what he did, the intermediate stuff where he is running away from people. He is just very rangy."

We are looking forward to lining up in the red zone with David Boston on one side and Kassim on the other and picking and choosing where we want to throw the fade.

"That is a big group of receiver's right there," says Craft laughing.

Have you heard how JR Tolver is doing in Miami?

"I heard from him the other day and he is climbing into that two deep as fast as he can and he is getting acclimated. I think he is going to do a great job. You know he can play the inside slot and he can play the outside. I think when he gets an opportunity and gets really comfortable and acclimated with their system he'll let a lot of his athletic ability take over and show he is worthy of their interest."

Losing your top two receivers how will the Powerful Aztec offense be year?

"I don't think our receiving group will be dominated by two guys like it was with JR and Kassim. Ronnie Davenport -- I think he has been lost in this whole equation. He had 56 catches. That is a lot for a third receiver when you got two that are over 100. I think the group that we got – we might have five, six guys that will share the catches by committee instead of the three we had last year. I think there is great diversity. We've got great quickness and speed from a guy like Ramal Porter who is only a freshman. He is going to be in that low 4.4 range and then you have that big tall guy like Kassim in Devin Pitts, a transfer from USC, and he plays bigger than a 6-4 guy and he's got great range. Then you have Lonnel Penman who has got great leaping ability. Each receiver is kind of unique and different."

"We felt coming away from spring football, and it really helps that you have an Adam Hall, who understands our offense now, we have a lot more diversity now at the receiver position cause of the strength of our depth now. I am excited about it."

His senior year brought his NCAA-record setting combination with fellow receiver JR Tolver for 236 receptions and 3,337 yards.

Any thoughts on the stadium debate? Will it affect the recruiting at SDSU?

"I don't think so. Those kinds of things have a way of taking care of themselves and I am not too concerned with the politics. We have got a stadium; we have got a place to play. I think there are other options available. It is kind of hard right now to speculate what we would possibly do, but I know we would have some options available. All we are trying to do is get off to a great start this year and get to a Bowl game. The last Bowl game that San Diego State won was back in 1969, 34 years ago. We have only been to three since then and we are trying to get into one and win it. Those are the things we are focusing on and we have a good foundation and a good group of kids that are working hard. I think we have a chance of doing that."

Being fans in San Diego, Chargers Update will be watching the Aztecs and are as excited as you about the upcoming season and we will be watching Kirk Morrison who is looking phenomenal as well.

Coincidentally, San Diego State junior linebacker Kirk Morrison has been selected as one of 36 football players named to the 2003 Bronko Nagurski Trophy Watch List. The award is given annually to the nation's top collegiate defensive player as voted on by the 800-member Football Writers Association of America (FWAA).

A year ago, Morrison was one of just six linebackers in the country named first-team all-conference as a sophomore. He finished 2002 with 97 tackles, three interceptions and five fumble recoveries after earning freshman All-America honors by The Sporting News in 2001.

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