Miami Hurricanes WRs work on adding skills to athleticism

MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 22: (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 22: (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

New Miami Hurricanes wide receiver coach Taylor Stubblefield told Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald he is working with his players on upgrading their skills and not to only rely on athleticism.

When he took over as The New Miami Hurricanes wide receivers coach, Taylor Stubblefield saw athleticism but not skill among his players. Stubblefield is working with the Miami wide receivers on getting their skill to match their athleticism. Miami has five WRs on their roster who were four-star signees coming out of high school.

Juniors Jeff Thomas and Mike Harley are two of those players. They are listed as first-team receivers with graduate transfer K.J. Osborn for 2019. Osborn is a talented player but has worked extremely hard to develop his skills. Osborn’s work ethic and leadership have made an impact on the Hurricanes WR room in just seven months in Coral Gables.

Stubblefield was an all-American at Purdue. He is the Boilermakers all-time leader in receptions and in the top five in receiving yards and touchdowns. Stubblefield made a clear distinction to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald that there is a difference between athleticism and skill. He wants the Hurricanes WRs to work on their skills.

The best players can get by on talent alone. With each step up in sports, the talent begins to even out. Players cannot just get by on talent the higher than advance. Stubblefield is working with the Miami Hurricanes WRs on increasing their skill level to help them get to the NFL.

"“There’s a difference between being skilled and athletic. When I looked at his (Thomas) film — and all the guys’ film — I saw athleticism. I did not see skill. What’s the difference? There are certain guys in the NFL that are extremely fast. That’s athleticism.Then there are certain guys in the NFL that are highly productive because they’re very skilled. Right now, it’s about trying to get the skill level of the position up to where the athleticism is. That’s where you see the best of the best.I talked to all my guys about, ‘Let’s work on the craft of being a receiver.’ It’s personal to me when somebody thinks if you’re just fast, you can go play receiver. You need to know that I either need to go outside or inside if I get pressed…Your skill has to be what separates you from someone running a 4.3 and a 40-inch vertical.”"

Harley, Osborn and Thomas are the top three receivers as listed on the Miami Hurricanes depth chart for Florida. Sophomores Brian HightowerMark Pope, Dee Wiggins and former walk-on Marshall Few are behind them. Noticeably missing from the list was freshman Jeremiah Payton. Stubblefield spoke about the WRs behind the top three.

"(The) fourth or fifth guy has to come in and be ready to roll for 10-15 plays a game and he needs to know all the positions. He needs to be the next best guy in in every single position.”"

Stubblefield spoke to Jackson about the difficulty of playing in college as a true freshman at any position in relation to Payton.

"“(Payton is) fighting his tail off to stay in the mix. As we know with Brian, Wiggins and Pope, it is tough to play as a freshman no matter where you go in the country. Jeremiah has an unbelievable attitude. His work ethic is pretty gosh dang solid.He needs to get stronger. He needs to understand the college game is a little bit faster and there are some details in his route running he needs to improve on. What’s great about him is he has the want-to to do it. The fight is still there between him and the rest of the guys.”"

Harley has waited his turn and will have the biggest role of his Miami career this fall. Stubblefield told Jackson that Harley has exhibited a lot of energy for the Hurricanes.

"“He’s like the energizer bunny right now…He’s logging a lot of steps, a lot of yards in practice. The speed is still there. He’s rolling. This has been a hard camp and he hasn’t missed a beat.”"

Hightower was exceptionally impressive during spring practice during 2018 and caught a touchdown pass in the season-opening loss to LSU last season. He was never able to live up to the hype. Hightower struggled with injuries during the 2018 season that lingered during spring practice. Stubblefield expects consistency out of him.

"“His career is going to be as a consistent, consistent receiver. There might not be the highs, there might not be the lows. But he’s a pretty consistent receiver.”"

Miami had an astronomical 40 drops last season per Jackson through Herald metrics analyst Daniel Gould. Half of the drops in 2018 were attributed to returning players. Stubblefield is working with his receivers on reducing that number in 2019.

"“There are days we’re catching everyone…There have been some days where we’ve dropped the easy ones. There have been days where we’ve been pretty gosh darn good on contested balls. And there have been days where we’ve been bad on contested balls. It’s all about trying to get all of that together.We’re expected to make the routine play. We want to be 80 percent on contested catches. That is lofty because a lot of people talk about that being 50/50.”"

Next. Miami Hurricanes WR Jeff Thomas expects to be open more in 2019. dark

After having great size at WR the last few seasons, the Hurricanes will not be as big with Thomas and Harley playing the majority of snaps in 2019. They are both sub 6’0. Osborn is 6’0. Hightower and Wiggins at 6’3 and tight ends Will Mallory and Brevin Jordan will be more relied on to catch the 50/50 balls.