Despite these successes, the Chargers have been criticized by many fans for having not done anything to upgrade a receiving corps that does not return even a single 50-catch player. The Chargers will have a chance to respond to such criticisms in the upcoming draft.
Former Utah receiver Steve Savoy has been criticized for many things. At five-foot-eleven and 191 lbs, he is undersized by NFL standards. Also, his incredible production from last season (1,268 total yards, 17 touchdowns) has been deemed by many to be nothing more than a product of Coach Urban Meyer's gimmicky offense.
While these criticisms deserve some merit, Savoy simply has too much going for him to be overlooked in the draft. The fact that last season he averaged 14 yards per catch is impressive, but the fact that he averaged 12 yards per rush on 22 carries is downright astonishing. He is a playmaker in every sense of the word, complete with soft hands, quick feet, and an arsenal full of sudden, quick-twitch maneuvers.
More important than his physical resume is his mental pedigree, as he has worked with some of the brightest minds in college football over the last few seasons. One of those minds belongs to former Utah coach Urban Meyer.
"He came in and laid down the foundation - the rules and regulations," Savoy recalled of Meyer. "If you didn't abide by them, he was going to get you out of there. If you wanted to play, you take heed of what he was talking about."
Savoy's ability to buy into a hardnosed coach who runs a tough system may be vital should he find himself in a Chargers uniform this fall. Coach Schottenheimer requires his players to give maximum effort at all times, and to sacrifice personal desires and habits for the good of the team. Savoy should have no problem dealing with such a coach, due to his history with the equally-demanding Meyer.
While Meyer might have been responsible for instilling Savoy with discipline and a admirable work ethic, it was the second genius-level mind to which Savoy was exposed that really elevated his draft stock. That mind, of course, belongs to former Utah quarterback Alex Smith, a likely top five pick in the fast-approaching draft.
"I'm glad I had the opportunity to play with him," Savoy said of Smith. "He's a fast learner. He watches film and gets everything done and he's our leader on the field. We followed in his footsteps."
Where Savoy and his Utah teammates followed Smith was into the history books as a result of Utah's undefeated season. But much like what is currently happening to Savoy, Utah never received the respect off the field that they felt they had earned on it.
"Because of the Mountain West Conference a lot of people out there are saying we're not a BCS school and we shouldn't have been rated as high as we were," Savoy said. "But I think that season proved we're capable of playing with anybody. You can't help what conference you're in. If you're a good team, you're a good team."
And there is no arguing that Utah had a good team, or that Savoy was a big part of their success. While those who have influenced his game deserve their credit, Savoy deserves his share of the accolades as well. He has his own unique skill set that has many teams willing to look past the aforementioned concerns about his game.
"I'm more of a big-play type of receiver," boasted Savoy. "Whenever we needed a big play, they came to me and I was always able to provide. I'm a run-after-the-catch type dude."
Steve Savoy is an explosive receiver who has shown he can produce touchdowns and deliver wins. If he can continue to live up to that reputation, then the may both quiet the criticisms and round out the receiving corps for the Chargers this fall. No doubt, a draft pick well invested.
Michael Lombardo can be reached at Lombardo@SanDiegoSports.net
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