After an entire spring and summer of new Nebraska receivers coach Rich Fisher and his players simply figuring what each other were all about, the wheels of progress are finally starting to turn a week into fall camp.
Fisher came to NU after spending the previous two seasons coaching at the prep level at Rivers School in Weston, Mass. His receivers, on the other hand, entered the spring looking to figure what their role in Tim Beck's new offense would be following the departure of their former position coach, Ted Gilmore.
Now with nearly four months for Fisher and his wide outs to work together, there is a whole lot of optimism coming from the unit that was regarded by some as one of the weak links of the offense the past few years.
"I wanted to come in here that they knew I was a different coach, I have a different philosophy, this is how I teach, this is how coach, and then make and evaluation based on their production, not their potential," Fisher said. "They're understanding the drills. When I came in, it was a new drill, new philosophy, it's a new offense, new ways to catch a football. What happens is those guys get used to what those drills are and they start to apply that craft.
"I think the key is I'm starting to see the individual and the coaching carry over into our team performance. We still have a long, long way to go. We're not anywhere near a finished product, but if they continue to prepare and work like they've been working, then the sky's the limit for them."
For the receivers, one of the biggest differences they've noticed between Fisher and Gilmore has been Fisher's focus more on utilizing their instincts and athleticism on the field rather than stressing over exact technique.
In Beck's new fast-paced offense, the role of the receiver seems to have opened up in big way. Rather than bench players for not running exact routes or blocking perfectly in practice, the wide outs are allowed to play in the flow of the game and try to make plays when opportunities arise.
"Last year, the focus was on blocking, and this year it's a lot more on just making plays," sophomore receiver Quincy Enunwa said. "(Fisher) wants us all to just go out and make a play. We have so many different checks that we can do, it just helps us all to get a big play in."
One player who showed in the spring game exactly what they mean by making big plays was freshman Jamal Turner. Fisher said he was obviously excited to see Turner develop over the next four years, but added it would take more than a few big catches to earn a spot the rotation this season.
"I think he's got a long way to go," Fisher said. "I think he has some tremendous talent, but he's far from a finished product, like a lot of these guys. He was just fortunate in the spring that his number was called on certain plays based on what the defense gave us. We've got plenty of guys in our room - Kenny Bell, Quincy Enunwa, Stanley Jean-Baptiste - who are doing a tremendous job of developing.
"We're going to need a lot of guys. I know we didn't play a lot of guys last year, but you're going to get on the field and play if you know what you're doing and what how to do it. If we can get a large number of guys to compete and make plays, then they'll get the opportunity to get on the field."
At this point, there look to be as many as many as nine receivers competing for playing time in fall camp, with senior Brandon Kinnie being the only one returning with significant experience.
With the Huskers likely to be using as many as four or even five receivers at certain points in the new offense, there is definitely a buzz of excitement within the unit this fall. If all goes as planned, Nebraska's receivers hope to go from being a liability on the offense to one of the strengths the team.
"I think it's been a lot of fun for them," Fisher said. "(The offense) is fast break, and we've got a lot of answers and can do a lot of things. The design of the offense is for us to be able to attack. If we see something that the defense is doing, we're able to isolate certain players and put them in situations to succeed. I think the guys start to see that in the film room, and they understand how the offense is working. It's exciting. It's not that one particular guy is going to get the ball every time.
"You're always on your toes, you're always into the game, you're always focusing. It's not like maybe it was in the past where a specific route was called and that's where the ball going and the other guys were just decoys. I think they're excited about what they can become."
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