Thursday, May 5, 2011

Linfield Football Spring Review: Wide Receivers

Buddy Saxton will loom large for the 'Cats passing attack in 2010
(Photo courtesy of Linfield Sports Information)
Welcome back to our Linfield Spring Review as Wildcat11 is getting around to start talking about the 'Cats offensive unit headed into 2011.  As you can see in the photo above we're kicking off the offensive review by talking about our wide receivers.  Wildcat11 is expecting very big things out of this group next year as the 'Cats bring back proven starting talent, program savy vets along with a group of young play makers.  This is a group that is going to have a major impact on the 2011 season as they're going to carry a lot of weight in getting a new Linfield quarterback settled into the reigns.

The 'Cats do lose two very productive multi-year starters with both Chris Slezak and Ryan Henderson graduating this spring but WC11 believes this group has the make-up to be one of the most diverse and explosive WR corps in the West Region.  The 'Cats return two starters in 6' 6" Buddy Saxon, who caught fire late in the season in racking up 6 TD receptions in the 'Cats final 4 games and Linfield also returns starter Deidre Wiersma who the team's 2nd leading WR last season with 42 receptions for 549 yards and 5 TD receptions.  Both Saxton and Wiersma are going to be key weapons in 2011 that are going to need to raise their games up another notch not only on gameday but in leading this group of 'Cats off the field as well.

Coach Yen and I will talk about the vets in a little greater detail below but Linfield likes to start 3 WR's and rotate a number of WR bodies throughout the game, the opportunity is there for these vets to rise up and fill some of these needs but they're going to be pushed by a very talented bevy of young WR's that showed last season they are capable of making plays vertically as well as in traffic.  The battle for that 3rd starting spot as well as for breaking the rotation is going to be one to watch this fall for sure as these 'Cats will need to bring their A game each and every single day.

Returning Starters
Buddy Saxon, 6-6 218lbs, Senior
Deidre Wiersma, 6-0 182lbs, Junior

Steady Vets
Erik Koczian, 5-11 195lbs, Senior
Michael Chopp, 6-0 195lbs, Senior
Joe Kloucek, 5-10 175lbs, Senior

Up and Coming
Conner Varnell, 6-3 190lbs, Sophomore
Derek Priestley, 6-0 190lbs, Sophomore
Jordy Romick, 5-10 185lbs, Sophomore
David Sigler, 6-0 175lbs, Sophomore
Michael Madden, 6-0 185lbs, Sophomore
Reid Sullivan, 6-0 175lbs, Sophomore
Charlie Poppen, 6-1 160lbs, Sophomore
Mackenzie Hyland, 5-7 155lbs, Sophomore
Nik Patterson, 5-10 170lbs, Sophomore
Riley Miles, 5-10 170lbs, Sophomore
Aaron Hire, 6-2 200lbs, Junior
Michael Carrillo, 6-0 205lbs, Sophomore

Talkin' Ball With Wide Receiver's Coach James Yin
Coach Yen is headed into his 8th year directing the 'Cats WR.
(Wildcat11) Coach Yen, 1st off tell me how spring has been for your wide receivers? The team lost two very capable starting seniors this past season in Chris Slezak and Ryan Henderson. Slezak was a big target over the past two seasons and Hendy's impact on the game was his blocking in the pass and run game. With both Buddy and Dre back as starters how have they been handing the pressure of being the two returning starters? What have these two shown you this spring and where do you thing they have made strides in their games and what do you want to see them continue to work on?

(Coach Yen) First off I would like to show my appreciation for what you do with Catdomealumni, it’s a real pleasure to see the work you come up with…refreshing is the word!! Keep it up!! Well other than the rainy days we had for the majority of our spring practices and some sprains and strains it’s been good. Yes we lost a good pair in Sle and Hendy, but going into the year last year we knew we were going to lose those guys, so the mindset for us as coaches was to get the inexperienced some experience, with the mentoring of Slezak and Hendy. One of the things that I think makes Linfield special is that our best coaches tend to be our veterans. Our seniors do a great job of passing the torch, it’s one of those things that gets passed down from class to class. Buddy is our smartest receiver and has been playing since his freshman year, so the weight on his shoulders shouldn’t be that heavy!

On the other hand, Deidre still has 2 years left to play, still half of his career! He played DB when he first came here, and played a little of both in HS so he learned a lot his first year starting at WR, and still has a lot to learn but the sky is the limit for this kid! I think these two Grants Pass boys will be the staple for our WR core, Buddy is stepping into the mentoring role and Deidre is a sponge right now, soaking up every bit of knowledge! Both lead by example, both are very competitive, something we see every day in spring ball! I think Buddy is close to reaching the top of his bar, he just needs to stay away from Panda Express and he’ll be fine. If Deidre keeps working on being a complete WR, understanding defenses, blocking and concept recognition, expect big things from him!

(WC11) I believe a vital key for the passing game is chemistry between the QB's and WR's and with Aaron Boehme's departure the QB job is open for the taking. How have the WR's corp been responding to Inns, Yoder, and Krellwitz so far this Spring? Do you see that chemistry developing between the QB's and WR's so far this spring and what do you envision for the passing attack next fall? Will this group have big play possibilities?

(JY) The chemistry between a QB and a WR are paramount. Yes it is crucial to know your QB as a WR, knowing how that ball travels in the air, what kind of spin the ball has, the velocity of it, all help to understand how to get that ball in your hands. Once our season ended last year I told all of our WR’s coming back that you need to start throwing with our young QBs and get that relationship formed! That’s playing catch for 20 mins a day, or getting a good 30 mins of route running in, or maybe just getting on the board and drawing up some of our plays. I think our young QB’s have taken that challenge and ran away with it! Our WR’s have been getting quality time throwing with Mickey, Josh, and Logan since our 2010 season ended. Our group knows that to be successful, you have to put in work. It’s like a girlfriend/boyfriend relationship…you have to put in time to get to know each other, and time will tell. We are only getting better every day, so yes I do see a good chemistry forming with our QB’s and WR’s.

As to what to expect from these guys, ‘balance’ I think is the word. I believe the ball will be spread around this year! I think the big play possibility is there, we have the arm strength, we have the speed, we just have to put the pieces together and good things will happen. But as previous years stated, we won’t change that much, so expect it all, the little 5 yd dumps, the 10-20 intermediate passes, and the long shots….we got the tools!

(WC11) Let's talk about your vets. I thought Koczian brought some really nice things to the WR core when he had his opportunities last fall and while Chopp and Kloucek didn't have a huge amount of catches they both have a skill set that can contribute to the offense. What do your vets need to do in order to make an impact this upcoming season?

(JY) These 3 guys are in a battle right now and I love it because it makes everybody better. Koczian is battling Buddy for playing time, and with the departure of Slezak last year that leaves an outside WR spot open with Chopp and Kloucek battling for it. All these guys had adversities at some point in their college career. Koczian came to us from West Linn as a dual Safety/WR. He played his first 2 years on defense, and then last year switched to WR last year as a junior. So he had to learn something totally new…an investment yes, but Erik is a guy that is smart enough to pick it up quickly. Chopp is a transfer from Montana State, a transition that’s not easy. Kloucek, well he came off of a broken leg prior to last year…a feat not many can make. It’s a testament to these guys and how much they want it…and they know the clock is running out. Koczian showed us that he did have a little WR in him still last year. Chopp needs to continue to get better at finishing, and Kloucek needs to be more consistent.

I’ve talked to these guys and what they need to do to see the playing field as a WR, so they’ve been really working on that in spring ball and it shows that they have. Overall, these three have to be really consistent to make an impact on our offense, a feat they are all capable of. I really expect good things from these three and am excited to watch the competition come fall.

(WC11) Of course, I want to talk about your young 'Cats. Both Varnell and Priestly saw significant time as Freshman and showed some big play possibilities and productivity. Can you tell us more about this group of Sophomores and where do you see them fitting in the rotation next fall? What are the areas they need to improve as a group and what strengths have they added to the team so far?

(JY) The majority of our WR’s are sophomores, so a good young core to develop. There are only a handful of guys that can come out of HS and play right away their first year of college, at any level. It takes somebody pretty special to handle the pressure, learn their respected position, form a good relationship with their teammates and play your first semester at college. Conner and Derek had that opportunity, and took advantage of that. But they are not the only soon to be sophomores on the WR family. I’ve already seen the improvement from this entire class since the end of fall. Like I’ve said above, I encourage competition within the team because it gets everyone better. Not only will Chopp, and Kloucek be battling for the outside spot, Conner and Charlie Poppen will be as well. On the inside there is a stable of slot WR’s that will battle for playing time in Priestly, Reid Sullivan, Michael Madden, Mo Hyland, Brody Kadow, Nik Patterson, Riley Miles and Jordy Romick. The completion for our H spot will be up for grabs as well as Aaron Hire makes the transition from QB to H, along with Michael Carrillo. These guys are still young with only a fraction of them seeing the field in any aspect, whether it be the offense or special teams last year. So for them to see the playing field, they need to stand out. They need to make the hard catches, make no mental mistakes, improve everyday and handle adversity well to be the guy here, something these guys are learning to do.

-To View Buddy Saxon's action photo and more of Linfield Football in action visit Linfield Sports' Photo Gallery

1 comment:

Chris said...

I can't wait to see these boys tear it up. I think we have a chance to really kick it up a notch. Can't wait to read more of the offensive reviews. Go Cats!