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Young receivers work to catch on

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Young receivers work to catch on

Thursday, August 24, 2006


News staff writer

AUBURN - Auburn wide receiver and elder statesman Courtney Taylor looks at all of the young guys playing his position and has nothing but praise for their athletic ability.

"But now is the mental part," Taylor warns, "... or getting into the classroom, as Coach Knox likes to say."

Classroom? Or kindergarten? Even wide receivers coach Greg Knox isn't quite sure where his players are this fall. One thing he does know, however, is that they are young, inexperienced and have plenty of work to do before the Sept.2 opener against Washington State.

One year after bragging about having four wide receivers with 1,000 yards in career receptions, the Tigers are down to only Taylor and a bunch of former backups and freshmen to carry the day.

"You go from all of that experience and all of that seniority to basically inexperienced guys with limited leadership skills because they're not in leadership positions right now," Knox said. "It's a major adjustment for them, but they're working through it."

The new names to remember are Rod Smith, Montez Billings, Robert Dunn, Prechae Rodriguez, Lee Guess, James Swinton, Anthony Campbell, Tim Hawthorne, Mario Fannin and Terrell Zachery. The 10 of them combined to catch 25 passes last season. The quartet of Taylor and the departed Devin Aromashodu, Ben Obomanu and Anthony Mix combined to catch 104 passes.

No wonder Knox has had to approach this season far differently than last season, starting when he walks on the practice field.

"The guys I had last year knew what I expected, so basically they could run the drills themselves," Knox said. "These guys need the help, they need the coaching, so I have to really pay attention to the little details, and make sure they're doing those details correctly. My older guys knew exactly what I wanted."

It's a learning process for players and the coach alike.

Knox says he is still trying to figure out which receiver position best suits his players. His choices: The "X" or true wide receiver; the "Z" or the old flanker spot; or the "W" or slot receiver. Today's starters would be Rod Smith at "X," Courtney Taylor at "Z" and Lee Guess at "W." The players below them are trying to find a home.

"We're seeing more of each kid and shifting them around, from one side to another, just trying to find where he best fits the puzzle," Knox said.

So wide receiver class is open for the youngsters. Professor Knox is your teacher and here's what he is teaching:

The `X' receiver lines up on the line of scrimmage and faces tighter defensive coverage. The `Z' receiver lines up just off the line and has softer coverage. Their skills need to be different, too. The `W' has featured bigger receivers in the past, but the slot position may see less time this year, and will certainly have a different look with Guess.

Knox said the `X' has to have better escapability because of tighter coverage.

"You need a guy with a quick twitch, and then some explosion," Knox said.

That was Devin Aromashodu last year.

"This year it's back to basics ... back to the very basics," Knox said.

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