Maryland coach expects big things from DHB

Lee Hull spent the past year as the wide receivers coach at the University of Maryland, so he has a keen insight into the Raiders first-round draft pick, Darrius Heyward-Bey. Hull recently spoke with SBI's Michael Wagaman and offered his view on the speedy wideout and why he thinks Oakland hit a home run with their selection.

Wagaman: What's the one thing that stood out to you more than anything when it came to evaluating, coaching and watching Darrius this past season?

Hull: The main thing about him is that he's a hard worker and he wants to be good. He knows the time and effort that's needed to go into it and he's willing to do it, he's willing to put in that extra work. He was always in here watching film on his own, talking to people, studying different receivers in the NFL and guys who have been here in the past. He wants to be good and he's willing to do what it takes to be good.

Wagaman: That type of work ethic seems to be rare among a lot of players. Why did it come so natural for Darrius?

Hull: He hasn't got a big head. There's no ego with him. He doesn't have an entourage or anything like that. That's not him. He grew up with his mom and his mom worked hard, putting him through private school. It's just his drive to do well. He wants to give back to his mom and also make a better life for himself and his mom. I think that's what drives him the most.

Wagaman: Was there ever a wow moment where you watched him and thought, ‘This kid can be something special?'

Hull: It was probably the Eastern Michigan game when he had to catch a pass that was over his head and way outside, and he flipped his head around, adjusted and faded to the ball. Great catch but an even greater adjustment on the ball. He accelerated, turned and made the catch. But those are the types of things we worked on in practiced. We worked on adjusting to the ball. We do a lot of long ball drills for the defensive backs and it's a drill where it's whoever wants it more, basically. That helped a lot. A lot of it is judgment on the ball and that's something he does well.

Wagaman: Having come from a pro-style offense at Maryland, will Darrius be able to make a quicker impact with the Raiders than maybe some of the other receivers who came out in the draft?

Hull: I think he will. What people got out of his interviews is that he's a very intelligent football player. He was in one pro style offense early in his career at Maryland and then when offensive coordinator James Franklin, who used to coach with Green Bay, and myself came in, we installed the West Coast offense so that will help. He's been in two different types of pro-style offenses and he can adapt very easily.

Wagaman: Crabtree and Maclin were the primary receivers with their teams but Darrius had a different role with Maryland in that you guys frequently asked him to serve as more of a decoy. Is that why he didn't get the national publicity the other two did?

Hull: What we asked him to do is a little bit different than what Maclin and Crabtree had to do. What Darrius is going to bring is he will block and he will be a complete receiver. He's not just a deep guy. He's also a very good person so you won't have to worry about him getting into trouble. He's going to do the right thing. That's important to him. He does a lot of stuff with the community and gets involved in the boys and girls' clubs.

Wagaman: Are you convinced pairing him with JaMarcus Russell is a solid match for both?

Hull: Speed is what everybody sees when they see Darrius and he's going to stretch the field. That's what Al Davis likes. JaMarcus and his big arm, they're going to do well together. I think Darrius will still be good on the intermediate and short routes and with his blocking. He's not a trained killer, no receiver really is, but he'll get in the way.

Wagaman: One of the criticisms of Heyward-Bey is that he is more of a straight-line runner rather than a polished receiver who can go all over the field. Is that fair or not?

Hull: He'll go over the middle. A lot of people think he's just a track guy but he caught balls over the middle. We didn't ask him to do it a ton, that's just not what we had in our offense. He can run the dig routes, shallow underneath the linebackers. He can do whatever they need him to do.

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