April 4, 2014
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Day-after-day in Marshall’s spring football practice, a question is starting to be answered.
Who’s going to step forward at outside receiver for the Thundering Herd?
Two players have some keen insight on the potential answer or answers.
“We have to be better on the outside, no question,” Herd Coach Doc Holliday said earlier this week during a guest stint on SuperTalk Sportsline. “There’s no doubt there are enough bodies there, and they’re athletic enough. They’ve just got to go do it.”
Two players who face those wideouts every practice – cornerbacks Darryl Roberts and Corey Tindal – say they’re seeing some signs that Holliday is going to get the answer he wants.
“There’s more depth there than last year,” said Roberts, a two-year starter for the Herd. “Last year, we had a couple of guys. This year, I think everybody is trying to step up and be the guy because they want to start. They’re all battling among themselves and that’s how you improve.”
Whether it’s the oft-injured Davonte Allen, or newcomer Angelo Jean-Louis, or veteran Craig Wilkins, or rangy sophomore Justin Hunt – or even someone else – the two cornerbacks say quarterback Rakeem Cato will have capable targets besides Tommy Shuler and Deandre Reaves in the slot, or Eric Frohnapfel and Devon Johnson at tight end/H-back.
“As far as the outside guys go, you’ve got Davonte,” Roberts said. “He has good speed and he’s strong. He needs to stay healthy because he’s a bigger guy who can go up and attack the ball.
“Jean-Louis is more deceptive speed, and he’s better than you think. He’ll get on top of you, and you’ve got to get your hands out. I think the only thing with him is just learning all of the plays and being confident, getting comfortable.
“Wilkins, he’s experienced (32 catches, 408 yards in 2013). He’s quick, a good route runner, precise… and talk about good hands. Demetrius Evans has played a lot of ball around here. He’s a good route guy, knows what he’s doing. Justin Hunt, he can get up, a fast guy, played some as a freshman. He has to start learning to adjust to the ball, but he can go get the deep ball and go up.”
Tindal said the outside receivers “come at us every day. They’re trying to beat us, trying to get better.”
The redshirt sophomore, who has moved from nickel where he started last season, said he gives the most props to Wilkins, “a finesse guy, more what you think of as a receiver, really good hands.”
The 5-foot-9 Tindal said the 6-3 Hunt is a challenge, too.
“I like Hunt because he’s tall and he can be physical; that’s a tough matchup for me,” Tindal said. “He’s 10 times better than he was last year – tougher, stronger. I think he gets better every day.
“Angelo Jean-Louis … he’s quick off the line, a really good burst. All these guys have their own strengths; they just have to find a way to be consistent. Wilkins was good last year and has gotten a whole lot better. He might be the best at giving me a look out here. Davonte Allen, he’s really coming along after being hurt some.”
Holliday said that whoever wins the outside receiving jobs – and with more depth in 2014 those could be positions by committee as long as those catchers make plays – they will have earned.
“I know one thing,” the Herd coach said. “We’re very good in the secondary now. You’ve got to remember these receivers are not going to probably go against better guys than they are now.”
Holliday does like what he has seen to date from the pass catchers.
“I think if you look at Davonte, he’s very talented, but he hasn’t been consistent making plays because he’s been hurt so much, never been through spring ball, missed some winter conditioning in the past,” Holliday said. “He hasn’t been out there on a consistent basis and he needs to do that. He’s talented, has the skills to be big-time outside guy.
“There’s no doubt Angelo Jean-Louis has a lot of ability there. He just needs experience. Wilkins can make plays. There’s no question we have guys to make plays, we need to develop them so they can.
“We took Demetrius (Evans) and moved him back inside (Tuesday), but he’ll be back outside at some point. Two young guys, (sophomores) Justin Hurt and Josh Knight, they’re talented guys who need to step up and become players. Those are the kind of guys I’m talking about. Allen, Knight, Hunt, Wilkins, Jean-Louis, some of them need to step up and go make plays.
“They’ve just got to go do it. We’re going to challenge them this spring, and want them to come out of spring ball and become dominant outside receivers. We have a couple (receivers) coming in the fall, too (in the signing class). We’ll get better on the outside. We have to get better.”
Roberts, a redshirt senior corner, said that’s already occurring.
“We play a lot of different guys,” Roberts said. “We play a lot of best-on-best in practice, and I can be on the best receiver. Every time those guys go out there, the receivers coach (Mike Furrey) is preaching to them they’ve got to go hard, they’ve got to win the route.
“Competition always brings greatness out of somebody -- repetition, repetition, doing same thing. It’s like, if you go out and catch balls every day, your hands are going to get better. That’s how it works.
“So, by them going out every day and facing us -- because we’ve got a good secondary -- every day they’re trying to better themselves and getting better at what they do.”