Chuck Landon: Young WRs catching eyes and passes
They are conspicuous in their absence.
Everyone knew wide receivers Tyre Brady and Marcel Williams wouldn’t be participating in Marshall University’s spring football practice. They’re seniors, after all, and their eligibility has been completed.
But that isn’t the case for Willie Johnson and Artie Henry. Johnson, 6-foot, 181-pound redshirt junior, caught 11 passes for 109 yards and also rushed five times on ends-around and jet sweeps for an additional 28 yards in 2018. As for Henry, the 6-1, 177-pound slot receiver caught 17 passes for 143 yards and two touchdowns last season.
Yet both Johnson and Henry are MIA from spring drills after having offseason medical procedures.
That means other than senior Obi Obialo, there is nothing but young guys catching passes, making plays and, yes, committing mistakes in the Thundering Herd’s spring camp.
Well, guess what.
It’s rather refreshing.
It was exciting to watch redshirt freshman Talik Keaton make a spectacular catch for a touchdown in a scrimmage. And, yes, it was eye-opening when another redshirt freshman - Ty Terrell - hooked up with quarterback Alex Thomson for a TD reception in the end zone during the same scrimmage.
Is it any wonder wide receivers coach Dallas Baker is walking around with a smile on his face?
“Talik has the potential,” said Baker. “But I tell him all the time that potential just grooms you to be somebody that you’re not. It doesn’t mean anything.
“But his willingness to work and take coaching is the reason why he’s making plays.”
Much the same is true of Terrell.
“Ty Terrell (6-0, 203 pounds) is a kid who comes from Lee County High School (Georgia) where Garet Morrell (former quarterback turned tight end) is from,” said Baker. “I want to say he won two state championships.
“I actually know his head coach because he actually coached with my defensive coordinator from high school. So, Ty comes from a football background.
“That’s what I said in the recruiting process about our guys this year. That definitely helps. When you can get kids that come from football high schools with football backgrounds, it’s kind of instilled in them to want to be great players.
“So, it’s our job as coaches to pull it out of them.”
That’s precisely what Baker appears to be doing. Add such names as redshirt sophomore Naquan Renalds (6-2, 192 pounds) and true freshman Broc Thompson (6-2, 176 pounds) to the list.
“Naquan is a young guy, who, again, comes from Florida,” said Baker. “Same exact way. He’s grown up around football, constantly asking questions, constantly staying after (to catch passes from the ball machine). So, again, it’s my job to help these guys, not only to become better people but also better football players.”
If it sounds as though Baker is extremely excited about his young wideouts, it’s only because he is.
“Oh, it’s great,” he said. “I tell them in the wide receivers room all the time, I say, ‘Relax. You know me. I’m going to coach you hard. I’m going to yell at you. I’m going to get on you. But, at the same time, I enjoy coaching this room because you make mistakes.’
“But with these young guys, they want to get better. They’re making mistakes because they’re inexperienced. So, it’s exciting to coach them and also to watch from along the journey when they begin to start making plays like Talik Keaton and Ty Terrell.”
They are arriving.
Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.