Young receivers looking to contribute right away
Posted: 08/13/2012 at 8:54 pm
By: Rachel Terlep
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Chris Brown (Photo Supplied)
Justin Ferguson (Photo Supplied)
“There’s no replacing Michael Floyd’s production,” freshman receiver Chris Brown said Monday. “But as a unit, we just gotta come together and just fill that role.”
Brown’s classmate Justin Ferguson agrees.
“I know all of us at receiver, we’re all going to need to help out,” he said. “There’s not one person with us who is going to fill (Floyd’s) shoes, so we’re all going to need to help.”
If the glimpse the media has seen of Brown, Ferguson and fellow freshman receiver Davonte Neal during the first few days of practice is indicative of anything, they’ll help out plenty.
Head coach Brian Kelly seems to be thinking along the same lines.
“I think they all have a chance to contribute as true freshmen,” he said of the three receivers in an Aug. 8 press conference. “It’s kinda early to really say for sure, but we’re not afraid to put them out there and they’re certainly not afraid to play. I think when you really look at the young guys that compete, those are the guys that really have confidence in their ability to go out there.
“All three of them are very confident in themselves. We’re gonna keep putting them out there with the first group and keep them in our rotation and let them get some action. We scripted a lot today for those young guys.”
During the Aug. 8 session, Brown snagged a 70-yard touchdown pass from Everett Golson before grabbing another 21-yarder from Andrew Hendrix. Brown looked comfortable — even eager — to stretch out in double- and triple-coverage up the middle.
When asked about those plays, Brown shrugged and said, “I just gotta make those plays.”
Brown ran track in high school, and his blazing speed was evident when he caught Golson’s pass and left defender Cam McDaniel in the dust for the 70-yard touchdown. Once Brown got past the secondary, no defender could touch him.
The former three-star recruit out of Hanahan, S.C., said he had bulked up 13 pounds since arriving on campus. He now weighs 184 pounds, but he’s not in a hurry to add any more weight for now. Brown said he’s learning to adjust to the pace of college football.
“Quarterbacks on the next level throw it a lot harder, so you have to get in, you have to focus on the catch every time,” he said. “Something (receiver) Coach (Mike) Denbrock preaches every day: Get extra reps and catch the football in time.”
When he wasn’t catching the ball in tight coverage during the Aug. 8 session, Brown was fielding punts alongside Theo Riddick, Cierre Wood and Neal.
Despite his early action with the first- and second-team offenses and special teams, Brown isn’t setting high expectations for playing time this year, saying, “I’m just trying to do everything I can.”
Brown echoed his fellow first-year receivers by saying veterans like John Goodman, Daniel Smith, Robby Toma and TJ Jones are helping the freshmen adapt to playing receiver at a college level.
Ferguson has especially benefitted from Jones, mostly based on proximity.
“He’s my roommate now,” Ferguson said. “If I have any questions about a route or a play, he’s the first person I go to. TJ’s helped me a lot.”
Sporting an “A-Team” t-shirt in his first meeting with the Notre Dame media, Ferguson has taken a mindset toward this season similar to Brown’s.
“We are all here for the same goal,” he said. “We are all trying to get better, all trying to get on the field. We also understand that we can’t all be on the field at the same time, so we’ll try our best to get to play.”
The 6-foot-1 former three-star recruit out of Pembroke Pines, Fla., didn’t have as flashy of a day as Brown during the Aug. 8 media viewing session, but he still looked quick and physical.
In fact, that’s what Ferguson lists as his number one strength: He’s a physical receiver.
Ferguson caught a 35-yard pass from Gunner Kiel on Aug. 8 and, like Brown and Neal, has rotated with the first- and second-team offenses through pre-season practices.
He says while he’s adjusting to the tempo of college football, he’s looking to become more consistent.
Even without Floyd in the lineup, Ferguson is getting a good vibe from this year’s receiving corps. Everyone brings something different to the table, he said.
“We’re versatile,” he said. “We have speedy guys on the inside. We have big receivers (who are) going to go up and get it. So each person has a different part, and we’re all going to do our role.”