When talking about seniors on the Aggie offense, Ryan Swope and Christine Michael are always the first to come to everyone’s mind. But receiver Uzoma Nwachukwu figures to play a huge part this fall in determining how good the Aggie offense can really be. On Monday, the senior receivers talked after practice about the start of spring football.
"The Pillars" on the practice fields are one of many new drills the receivers are using this spring.
“It’s been fun,” he said. “Guys are excited and you know with the music out there, everybody is excited to get back on the field. It’s been uptempo and it’s been fun.”
According to Nwachukwu, the extra time with Larry Jackson has paid off.
“It’s been great. He has a great system going, and he’s been getting us excited in the weight room and when we’re running and stuff like that. He’s added a lot of excitement, and we’re just ready to start rolling,” he said.
He added, “I feel like out there running routes my stride is getting a lot longer and I feel good moving quickness wise.”
Even though Jackson had been preparing the team for the high paced practices they are now facing, Nwachukwu said that they still weren’t really prepared for the speed of practice.
“It was a shock. I’m not going to lie,” he said. “I think we adjusted pretty well and the leadership out there, Swope and (Christine Michael) leading our guys and keeping the tempo up. It was a shock but it was nothing we couldn’t handle.”
He added, “The receivers, we’re constantly running routes, there’s not a time we’re taking off at all. Just getting our bodies in shape to keep running routes. Right after you run a route you’re right back on the line. Just that part of it an training our bodies to keep going.”
Though the pace of practice might be different, Nwachukwu said that from a scheme standpoint, there isn’t much of an adjustment for the receivers.
Nwachuwku feels like his experience working with veteran quarterbacks will help him bring along the young corps of QB's.
“It’s not too much different to be honest. The smash concept is the same, posts and that type of routes are going to be the same. It’s just filling the void of the defense and being able to adjust off of quick movements and different things like that,” he said.
However, one major difference has been the focus on receiving fundamentals.
“We just have a lot more individual time,” he said. “We work on fundamentals, we work on getting off the ball, one foot releases and just different releases where you’ve got to ‘swat and swim’ and utilize different techniques. In the little individual time we have we definitely get some work done and I think it’s going to benefit a lot.”
That focus on the little things has brought a training method made famous at Texas Tech down to College Station.
“We’ve been catching tennis balls all spring. We’ve been catching them for a while on our own and after practice every day we’re going to keep catching tennis balls to work on fingertip catches and catching strength and seeing the ball in,” he said.
According to Nwachukwu, the message about drops is simple, and if they do happen, they don’t go unpunished.
“That’s not an option,” he said. “We’ve addressed that a whole lot in the receiver room and overall as an offense. We’re putting the pressure on us to eliminate that.”
He added, “We got five fingertip pushups (for drops), and based on what type of drop it is coach will definitely have something for us. It’s a whole lot. After practice we’re all circled up and whoever dropped the ball has to get in the middle of the circle and lead the up-downs. It’s not too fun leading up-downs for the whole team.”
He said some receivers took on themselves before to make up for drops, but that it wasn’t emphasized as a team. That’s all part of a constant theme that’s been heard from players and coaches, and it’s cutting down on missed opportunities. Kevin Sumlin and company know that they don’t have much margin for error next season.
“Day one when he met with the offense, that was the vocal point. We’re going to end that right now. He came here to win and you can see that in his eyes and every day in practice. He’s trying to win, and any missed opportunity that we have, or any dropped ball, interception, turnover. It’s definitely emphasized. That’s a mistake that we’ve got to get fixed,” said Nwachuwku.
Nwachukwu, as well as his fellow seniors Swope and Michael, will be called on to help bring along the young quarterbacks this season. They’ve been around veteran quarterbacks like Jerrod Johnson and Ryan Tannehill when they were younger, and now they’re trying to pass the things they were taught.
“Just keep those guys positive, it’s tough on them,” he said. “They’re kind of young and everybody’s looking at them to make this play or not make this play. Things like that. Just keeping them focused and keeping them mentally prepared because it’s a struggle, there’s a lot of pressure on those guys. Just keeping them uplifted.”
He added, “It’s different, but I think that playing with guys like Jerrod and Tannehill, guys that had a lot of experience and shared it with me and how to run routes and how to prepare and things like that. If I can rub of anything to guys like Jameill, Johnny, Joeckel and Matt that’s coming along, I think that’s huge. I think that will benefit them as well as me, to interact with those guys and try to be a leader.”
The Aggies take the field for practice number three on Tuesday afternoon.