Aug. 23, 2012
WASHINGTON - During Saturday's scrimmage the physical play of the Georgetown University football team's wide receivers was evident, as several times receivers went up in the air to catch balls over or in front of defensive backs. The motto for the new offense under first-year coordinator is to "play smart, fast and physical"; a motto that first-year wide receivers coach Michael Neuberger has worked to instill in one of the team's deepest units.
While the Hoyas received strong play from its receiving corps in 2011, the discussion beginning in the spring was how they could improve to help the team "finish the job." While Neuberger had only seen the group on film, the consensus in the room from the players was they needed to be my physical.
"That is something that when I was brought in here they felt they lacked and needed to improve upon, so we focused on that in the spring and obviously this fall I've been pleased," Neuberger said. "The way that they go up and challenge the defensive backs for the ball has been really impressive. I've been impressed by their competitive nature when the ball is in the air."
The Hoyas featured a wealth of playmakers at wide receiver, with 12 different receivers making catches during the 2011 season. They also return its top two receivers in senior Max Waizenegger (35 catches, 424 yards, 6 TD's) and redshirt junior Jamal Davis (31 catches, 386 yards, two touchdowns), while only losing two members to graduation. With GU also bringing in three talented freshmen to compete for playing time and targets, physicality will be one of the determining factors in figuring out the depth chart going into the first game at Davidson on September 1.
"We have to be as physical as we can be," Neuberger said. "When the ball is in the air we want to be physical in going up and taking it away from defensive backs, when we're running our routes we want to be physical getting off the ball and getting over the top of linebackers and when running the ball we want to be physical at the point of attack on the perimeter. That's something we stress to them that you won't get the ball unless you can block. I think they have embraced that and worked very hard at it."
Neuberger and offensive coordinator Vinny Marino both arrived on the Hilltop from Columbia, where Neuberger worked with the tight ends in Marino's offense. His arrival at Georgetown has been a help due to his comfort in the offense Marino brings, one similar to what has been in place at GU over the past two seasons. Neuberger also offers a unique perspective to the Hoyas wideouts, having been a defensive back from 2001 to 2004 at University of Dayton, as he can advise the unit to what defensive backs are looking for and give added information on certain types of coverage.
So far, Neuberger has been pleased with the attention to detail and ability to process what they have seen and apply it to the practice field during the first two weeks of training camp.
He mentions, "Football is a game of watching film and learning. I think of coaching as teaching and like teaching at Columbia, these guys are very bright individuals, very good academically and take to teaching very well."
Not only have the team's wide receivers been receptive to learning from the new coaches, but Neuberger has been pleased with the leadership shown by a group that features eight juniors and seniors.
"We've had some guys step up," Neuberger said. "The younger guys look up to a number of them. We have different types of leaders. There are guys that will verbally communicate with everybody. There are guys that just line up and get the job done each time and I think to be balanced and get the most out of your offense you need both types of individuals."
"On the field, Kenny Furlough is someone who can get through to the guys," Neuberger said of the 6-4, 225 pound senior. "When things are going well or aren't going well, he's a deep-voiced young man that can voice his opinion and strike you when he starts talking. The way he's performed this spring and fall he's gained the confidence in the rest of the players who believe the things he says because of it."
The Hoyas have also had a strong group of players that have become leaders by example.
"The one that stands out in a get up, just do it, go to work type guy is Zack Wilke," Neuberger said. "He is an extremely coachable slot receiver, who is very football savvy. He understands the game, recognizes certain situations and is able to read coverage. He allows himself to be taught what we're looking for, but then can put his own twist on it and that becomes fun to watch."
With as many as 15 players competing for playing time, the Hoyas will have talent on the outside and inside, giving quarterback Isaiah Kempf plenty of targets. On the outside the Hoyas have a good combination of size and speed with players like Furlough, Jamal Davis, Kevin Macari, Elliott Owusu and Brandon Floyd. Each has shown plenty of ability in their time at Georgetown and have impressed the coaching staff since the spring.
"Jamal is a very consistent football player," Neuberger said. "He's an intelligent young man who gets the game, he puts in the effort each day to get better. He has some limitations and he knows those, but he does other things very well to overcome those limitations. Guys look up to him and see the way he does things and want to emulate those things."
"Kevin is a very skilled wide receiver," Neuberger added. "He's very football savvy, he has great hands, great vision and is a physical young man that will also block for you, which is something we've worked on very hard with him. He had a very big year last year and he's put in a lot of work in the offseason and we're expecting big things from him this year."
Neuberger is also excited about the depth the team will have in the slot, with a group of players that have shown an ability to "move and shake." Outside of Wilke, Neuberger notes that last season's leading receiver Max Waizenegger has been someone who has been particularly impressive during training camp.
"Max is a great guy and a great player," Neuberger said. "He is a guy you need to find a way to get him the ball. Watching him on film, he's a guy who is able to do some very nifty things in the middle of the field, over top of linebackers that help you out. Both Max and Zack are guys that our opponents are going to have to be aware of where they line up. They make big plays, they make plays when they are needed and they allow you to expand your playbook."
With the offense installed and both first and second team offenses showing an ability to move the ball through the air in Saturday's scrimmage, the challenge for the Hoyas coaches is establishing a depth chart with the talented group.
"I'm excited about the depth we do have," Neuberger said. "Right now we're trying to establish what that depth chart will look like."