They will, at times, run the right route the wrong way or the wrong route the right way. They will line up incorrectly, get beaten on a block on the perimeter or bullied off a route, misread a coverage.
Yes, they also will from time to time drop a pass.
But on the practice field this fall camp it has been absolutely clear that the next great Fresno State receiver – or group of receivers, since this is one of only five programs in history to produce a trio that racked up 1,000 receiving yards in the same season – could very well be out there trying to get it right.
Could be one of the redshirt freshmen: Jamire Jordan or Keyan Williams inside, KeeSean Johnson outside. Could be L.J. Reed, just a freshman but 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds. Could be community college transfer Josiah Blandin. Or it could be one of the returning players, if the light goes on for Darrell Fuery, if Justin Johnson has a senior season to remember, if Delvon Hardaway comes back from his spring knee surgery as fast as ever because the pieces are already there.
It most definitely could have been Aaron Peck, had he not landed wrong when coming down with a pass a couple of weeks back, suffering a foot injury that required season-ending surgery.
Coach Tim DeRuyter has seen it. Offensive coordinator Dave Schramm has seen it. Joe Wade and Phil Earley – who coach the outside and inside receivers, respectively – have seen it.
“Athletically,” DeRuyter said, “they’re right there.”
They’re just young. Most aren’t yet allowed to interview with the media – the team rule is first play in a game, then answer questions about it.
But the development of the young corps of receivers will be a large factor in the success of an offense that has the potential to light up that new high-definition scoreboard in Bulldog Stadium, and whether they can join a tradition that goes back to the 1980s and Henry Ellard and Stephone Paige, Larry Willis and Stephen Baker “The Touchdown Maker,” who ironically is the Fresno State record holder for career yards per reception but not among the top 10 in touchdown receptions in a game, season or career.
Bernard Berrian is a part of that. Same with Charlie Jones and Rodney Wright, Charles Smith and Seyi Ajirotutu.
And, most recently, Davante Adams, who in just two seasons set school records with 233 career receptions and 38 career touchdown catches, and in 2013 when teamed with Isaiah Burse and Josh Harper formed one of the best receiving trios in college football history. Working with quarterback Derek Carr, Adams had 1,718 receiving yards, Burse had 1,026, and Harper had 1,011.
But there is a long way there from here for the latest Bulldogs group.
“They’re very, very talented, but very inexperienced,” Schramm said. “I think a lot of those guys are in that mold if they’re going to work hard. I’ve been here going on four years, and the thing I’ll say about those guys that were here before, that we inherited, they worked their tails off. Those guys were hard-working guys. They believed in blocking for each other. They believed in blocking for the running backs.
“The physical part of the game was something they embraced, and their hard work and their dedication is what made them great. They had ability, and these guys have that type of ability, too. Do they have the same ability to work hard? We’ll see.”
As a group, the inside and outside receivers can make for a dynamic mix. There is speed inside. There is length outside. Few defensive coordinators in the Mountain West Conference will click on the tape and automatically think: I have an answer for that.
“That slot position with Jamire Jordan and Keyan Williams, it’s kind of thunder and lightning,” Earley said. “They both have different skill sets that are pretty good for that position. So we can kind of do different things with each one of them, and that’s the plan. I know coach Schramm will have plans for getting the guys the ball, and I’m sure he’ll have some plans for them.
“Not to be melodramatic, but we’re still trying to block the bubble (screen). We’re trying to do the base things right and catch every ball that we’re capable of catching and run the routes at the right depth and all that. But these guys have worked hard and done a really good job of trying to digest everything that we’ve thrown at them this fall.”
How that group attacks the start of the season and carries through is just one of the many questions for the Bulldogs, but if they get it, there also is an answer.
“We’ve got a great future with those guys,” Schramm said. “Like I’ve said before, it’s like a track meet sometimes when those guys are out there.
“We’re excited about them and just have to get them ready and get them grown up, and they’re going to have to grow up fast because they’re going to have to play.”
Fresno State vs. Abilene Christian
- Thursday: 7 p.m. at Bulldog Stadium
- Radio: KFIG (AM 940), KGST (AM 1600)