KU wide receivers training to get the most out of every catch

photo by: Henry Greenstein/Journal-World photo

Wide receiver Luke Grimm runs through a drill as position coach Terry Samuel and fellow receivers look on during practice on Aug. 13, 2023.

As Kansas wide receivers coach Terry Samuel describes it, when a young receiver catches the ball, he’s often so relieved that he ran the right route, and so shocked that it actually paid off, that he rarely knows what to do next.

KU’s receiving corps isn’t quite that young anymore. The Jayhawks return a whopping seven of their top eight receivers from last season. Already possessing a firm grasp of the intricacies of offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki’s eclectic scheme, they are focused on making every catch count.

During the first two weeks of fall camp, this has meant running through an array of drills designed to help a pass-catcher already know his “exit route,” as junior Quentin Skinner puts it, at the instant he snags a ball.

“We do drills of, if we got one defender on us, attack them and then make them miss,” said Luke Grimm, a fellow returning junior and KU’s leading receiver last year. “If we have two, we’re trying to isolate one, split them, to gain as (many) yards as possible. And then we do drills every day of catching the ball, drop-stepping, getting straight up the field. Instead of getting horizontal, we’re trying to get as vertical as we can.”

Teammate Lawrence Arnold, who rounds out the top three with Grimm and Skinner, described a few of the exercises the wideouts have gone through to improve these skills. In one drill, a pair of receivers, either at the boundary or the middle of the field, run hitch routes; whoever gets the ball takes off running and whoever doesn’t spontaneously gets in position to block. In another, which Arnold called the “make you miss” drill, a receiver rounds a cone and is immediately called upon to fake out a defender.

Arnold said that when Samuel arrived in 2021, the group was more possession-inclined — “We used to ‘banana run’ around,” Arnold said, “take five or six steps to get up the field” — but that the results of this yards-after-catch work have been borne out on the field more and more as the group has settled in.

“The YAC comes with you being comfortable with the play that’s called, the routes that’s called, and now that I have the ball in my hands, what do I do with it,” Samuel said.

Arnold points out that in the games where KU wideouts cleared the 100-yard mark in 2022, it was because of YAC opportunities. Arnold caught five passes for 113 yards at Oklahoma, four for 110 at Texas Tech and eight for 119 in the Liberty Bowl against Arkansas. Across those performances, 116 of his yards, in total, came after the catch.

For Samuel, maximizing the outcome of each catch is about having each receiver “understand that it’s a blessing when the ball’s coming your way.”

“And when you get it, all eyes are on you,” he said. “You got to find a way to get more out of your opportunities. You’re not promised another throw … Go score and get in the end zone and hopefully a cheerleader will give you her number or something like that. So that’s what you’re trying to get done.”


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