When your head coach is one of the greatest receivers in the history of the program, you know you’re in for extra work if you continue dropping passes.
That’s the case at Alabama State this week as head coach Reggie Barlow tries to solve the problem his receivers are having in hanging on to the ball.
Through two games, there are six dropped passes among a trio of receivers and that doesn’t count the number of catchable balls, only the number that hits a receiver in both hands in stride when the only excuse for dropping it is a lack of concentration.
In last Saturday’s game, there were four drops, with three by Wetumpka’s DeMario Bell that forced coaches to pull him from the lineup in the second half.
“At one point in the game on Saturday, we took Bell out for a little bit to let him refresh or rethink or whatever, but Bell is a player for us,” ASU coach Reggie Barlow said. “We know what he brings to the table.
“I guess the thing that frustrates me with the drops, being a former receiver, is I haven’t seen the commitment to going over and beyond to catch more balls before practice and after practice. I’ve got these tennis balls I’m going to give them. That’s what catching is. We all can catch a ball. With my receiver coach, we had to walk around with tennis balls. That’s what we did. We bounced it on our way to class. Then you bounce it against the wall and you’re just playing catch.
“For them, I have to see more of them catching it on the Jugs machine, doing the extra work. I did change practice where the individual (work) was doing it on their own. Now, we’re just – right off the bat – catching it. Hopefully, that’ll help them.”
It’s a problem several demonstrated in August during preseason practice, but now it has carried over to the game. All six of the catches would have resulted in first downs. Two of them, one in each of the first two games, hit a receiver in the open field and likely would have resulted in a touchdown.
Obviously, Barlow hopes the extra work will pay dividends on Saturday. But coaches can only do so much. If a receiver wants to help his team and maybe earn future money at the professional level, he has to do the same thing a center on the basketball team does at the free-throw line or a second baseman on the baseball team does in fielding grounders — work on his own to become a more dependable player.
Alabama State’s receivers, as Barlow noted, are exceptional athletes but not prototypical college receivers.
“Bell is 6-foot-2 but he doesn’t have 6-2 hands,” Barlow observed. “And Earl (Lucas) is a smaller guy so you know he doesn’t have big hands. So you have to spend more time catching it.”
Barlow said there may be a couple of early calls in Saturday’s game at Arkansas-Pine Bluff that involve simple, quick routes that gets the ball in a receiver’s hands “to get his confidence going.”