Each year as Mark Stoops has added depth, the coaches increasingly emphasize the importance of competition at a variety of positions. Each year, the focus tends to trend toward the wide receivers. This year is no exception, but it’s different than normal.
“We’re competing all day,” Garrett ‘Juice’ Johnson said. “It makes you want to continue to get better to get to that next step.”
It’s not an abstract next step. It’s the next step toward the front of the wide receivers’ meeting room.
“Right now he (Lamar Thomas) has the starters sitting in the front row of our meeting room. He made it very clear that nobody’s spot is guaranteed,” Jeff Badet said. According to Badet, Thomas’ message to the players sitting in the back is very clear: “It’s your job to take their seat. It’s your job to come sit in the front.”
A fluid depth chart, everyday the arrangement of playbooks can change. Lamar Thomas says it’s only going to make them better.
“They’re understanding that in that meeting room, you could be sitting in the front row today, but tomorrow you could be sitting in the fourth row,” Thomas said.
Badet already understands there is little room for error or lack of effort. “You can’t come out here and take a day off because the next thing you know, you’ll come in and you’ll see your playbook in maybe the second or third row and that’s how you know you lost your job.”
The competition Thomas injected into the wide receiver room has made his players value every snap. In a crowded room of upperclassmen, it only takes a few big plays for a young guy to replace them.
“You have to have a different mentality if you want to get over that hump, if you wanna make that big play,” Johnson said. The worker’s mentality is what Thomas wants to see from his wide receivers throughout camp.
“You gotta come everyday with your hardhat on, ready to work,” Thomas said. “Ready to earn a position, ready to win a position or ready to get a position and that’s what we strive to do in that receiver room.”
Notes from Today’s Practice
— Today was the first fully-padded practice. Tomorrow the team will have their first two-a-day of camp.
— Gran likes what Boom Williams has done early. His injury set him back some, but Gran likes the Boom has developed into a “one-cut” back. Instead of (annoyingly) dancing around side-to-side, he’s become a more vertical back through the first handful of practices.
— Eddie Gran sees “a lot of toughness” out of Landon Young. He doesn’t want to praise a true freshman too much too early, but he’s happy to see that Young has lived up to the hype, pushing the guys in front of him to be at their best everyday.
— When Jojo and Gran collide….I’m sure it’s electric. Even though Kemp has evolved into a mature senior, he still loves to joke around. Gran and Jojo are still figuring each other out.
“You gotta know when to turn it on and turn it off, in terms of when you’re going to have fun and all that. As you know, Jojo likes to have fun and laugh. But when Jojo gets out here he practices, he gets after it. He and I are just kinda getting to know each other; of when he needs to be like that and not to be like that….He’s just got to understand me and my personality. Because when we get out here, it’s different.”
If there are two players that match Gran’s personality, it’d be Jon Toth and Nick Haynes, a pair of no-nonsense businessmen.
— Keep an eye on Justin Rigg. Gran’s early praise for Rigg’s size and soft hands makes it easy to understand why Darryl Long decided to transfer. Rigg is pushing Greg Hart to be the No. 2 tight end.
— Be patient with Kayaune Ross. Even though I thought he was one of the most impressive looking new players, Gran said that he has some catching up to do (no pun intended), but he could be ready to make an impact in the range of game three or six.