BOGACZYK: Herd's Knight Uses Summer to Catch Up
The Word on the Herd-August 8, 2014
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Josh Knight didn’t catch a pass during his freshman season in Marshall’s football program. He couldn’t catch a break, either.
After displaying a good amount of promise in August camp a year ago, Knight struggled with hamstring issues and became buried on the depth chart during a season when Marshall was looking for help at outside receiver.
Now, after a superb summer in strength and conditioning, Knight appears ready to be part of a much-improved – and crowded -- wideout picture for Coach Doc Holliday’s 2014 team of big predictions and expectations.
“It was frustrating,” Knight said of his rookie year. “But being out there some, it did help me a lot. I had a chance to learn from the veteran guys like Tommy Shuler, Craig Wilkins, Davonte Allen, ‘MooMoo’ (Smith). They showed me the ropes, taught me how to stay focused.”
Knight, from Fort Pierce, Fla., has added 15 pounds to his 6-foot frame, and at 199 pounds, figures he has more durability and strength to withstand the rigors of the game. His summer conditioning work also opened some eyes, said Herd strength coach Scott Sinclair.
“He was one guy who stood out,” Sinclair said of Knight, who played in only three games last year. “We didn’t really realize how well he did until we looked at the final numbers. He did a 490 squat, close to 500 at 199 pounds, and that’s very good.
“He did a 285 power clean, went 10-3 in the broad jump (ranking in the team’s top five) and had a 35-inch vertical. Very good numbers.”
Now, Knight needs to translate those figures onto the field, said Herd receivers coach Mike Furrey, who liked what Knight delivered the first three days of camp when he was working in a group with the rookies during morning sessions.
“I think I like everything about Josh Knight,” said Furrey, a former NFL receiver of seven seasons. “He’s got great natural hands, he’s a great route-runner. He’s confident in his routes, quick enough to get open. He’s just got to stay healthy.
“We lost him all spring to a hamstring, lost him last season some, also with a hamstring, and he’s got to stay on the field. But I think these first few days he’s been out here, he’s making a name for himself, which he did the first week of camp last year before he got a little tired and got those freshman legs.
“I like everything about him. He’s a Tommy Shuler in a bigger body. He knows the game, he’s smart, he catches the ball very well and he’s quick, and he’s very explosive. Again, he has to stay healthy.”
Knight said his physical preparations this summer, combined with what he learned last season while mostly sitting, should pay dividends.
“I feel really good, much better,” Knight said. “Coach Sinclair has got to be one of best strength coaches in the country. He’s gotten me a lot stronger, more explosive and that should help on the football field. I always try to translate what I do well in the weight room onto the football field.
“Last season, the biggest thing I learned was about recognizing defenses and focusing every play. Coach Furrey talks a lot about the importance of knowing coverages and knowing what everybody’s doing on the field.
“This isn’t like high school, where you can come out and go through the motions. You have to focus every snap and have a really, really good idea of what’s going on with the defense, what your route is and what you want to get accomplished.”
In his final two seasons at Fort Pierce Central High, Knight had 54 receptions for more than 750 yards. Now, he said the increased competition at wideout for the Herd will help not only the Conference USA title favorite, but also each player.
“I definitely think it’s a possibility,” Knight said when asked about getting into the Herd’s receiver rotation. “It’s wide-open, and Coach Furrey says how much you play is going to be based on how you perform in camp. I think people would say my strengths are that I have pretty good hands, and I’m pretty good at route-running.
“I think the thing I really want to work on is the deep ball, down the field, working on acceleration to get there. That’s what I need.”
Furrey said the sophomore has a chance to contribute to that new-found deep depth at receiver that Holliday has mentioned early in camp, and the Herd receivers coach used the group’s established star, Shuler, as a Knight comparison.
“Josh is a little quieter than Tommy, but he’s got the demeanor he needs, the knack to get open and he’s competitive enough,” Furrey said. “You’d like to see a bit more of attitude like Tommy and those guys have – where they’re hungry and want the ball every play.
“Josh has that in a different way. He’s more reserved, but you talk to him and he’s confident and that’s what he wants, and he doesn’t shy away from anything. He’s a tough kid. He’s shown me something these first days of camp.”