Aug. 27, 2014
Skip Myslenski reports on the news and notes surrounding the Wildcats as they prepare for Saturday's season-opener against Cal (2:30 p.m. CT, ABC/ESPN2).
Tony Jones, who led the 'Cats in receptions last season with 55, has been a man of mystery throughout camp, more often observing rather than participating in practices. He chuckles when this is mentioned to him. Then he says, "I'm feeling good. Obviously, I've been a little banged up. But it was just precautionary. I feel great. My body feels wonderful. I'm looking forward to Saturday (and the season opener against Cal)."
Later he will also add: "I had a little rest. That was Coach Fitz's (Pat Fitzgerald's) decision. I felt good, but he wanted me to feel great. Now I feel great."
A POINT OF EMPHASIS throughout camp has been improving yards gained after a catch and after contact. "In any drill, when we catch the ball, express it 10, 15 yards. That's been something that (Receiver) Coach (Dennis) Springer's been on us about, even Coach Fitz, from the first day of camp," Jones avows. "When you catch the ball, he wants to see you running through tackles. That should definitely carry over to Saturdays. You know last year we definitely improved on the yards after the catch, especially with our bubble game. But something I personally want to work on this year is yards after the contact."
, of course, now has sole ownership of the quarterback's job, which he shared over the last two seasons with Kain Colter
. "I think he's a lot more confident now," Jones will say when asked if that has altered him. "He doesn't have to worry about being changed every couple series, every couple plays. I've definitely noticed that. The confidence in him."
Asked if it's easier for him, as a receiver, to work with one quarterback instead of two, he will add, "That had been something we just adjusted to, having Kain and having Trevor. But it does make it a lot easier to get into a certain routine having just one quarterback. You know what he's looking for and you're just kind of always on the same page. That's opposed to, you know you have different guys, different personalities, one might see something completely different than the other quarterback."
Later, still talking about Siemian, he will conclude, "Our chemistry's great. We get along on the field. We get along off the field. I know that Trevor's always looking for me. I'm really looking forward to big things this fall."
FITZGERALD, in turn, had this to say about Siemian this week. "I've been proud of the way he stepped up. As he said months ago, this is his team, and he's acted that way, his attitude's been that way, and he's done a terrific job leading the way he leads. He's never going to be a guy full of false bravado, pounding his chest. He typically lets his play speak for itself and is a pretty gregarious guy. He's always upbeat, he's always positive, and I think that's going to be one of his legacies as he moves forward hopefully with a lot of success. He's got a lot of experience under his belt. But I definitely think it will be a lot more fun for him being the guy."
"One thing I tried never to lose track of is this is a game, and we're all really fortunate to play it," Siemian himself will say when asked about that last line. "So I always try to have fun, and try to share that with other guys, other teammates. So I'd say so. I think I got a great group and I think that's the personality of this team. Yeah, we're playing ball, we're playing hard. But we're having fun at the same time."
SIEMIAN, as has been noted often during camp, regularly refers to himself as a goofball. "He's extremely goofy," agrees Jones with a laugh. "He's always a good time. I just enjoy working with him. He definitely brings that fun, that passion each and every day. I think Trevor can find some light and fun in any situation, no matter what it is. Whether he's mimicing guys, the coaches, whatever it is, he's just funny."
"He's always goofy," says Jones, "so when he does get serious, it's `All right, guys. This is real right here, listen up, let's focus.' Even in the film room, guys'll kinda goof around see something funny on the tape. But then as soon as he says it's business, it's business."
ON A LIGHTER NOTE, it turns out that offensive coordinator Mick McCall is the coach the players most mimic. "I think almost everyone can do him at this point," Jones says with a smile. "KP (receiver Kyle Prater) has a great Coach McCall imitation, some of the guys on the offensive line, definitely Trevor. Coach McCall is definitely the heart of all of the jokes."
THE LATE Randy Walker, Fitzgerald's predecessor, would often say, "If those puppies aren't biting the third year, they're probably not going to bite at all."
Then, on Wednesday, Fitzgerald himself said, "I think it has a lot to do with them going from 20 to 21. You know, when you're 20, you can't wait, you're finding every way to get into bars. When you're 21, you're like, `It's not that big of a deal anymore.' It's kind of like sophomore-junior years in college. You've moved off-campus. You went through the transition year, you went through the second year feeling you've got everything figured out when you don't have anything figured out. You usually fall on your face. The third year, you're settled down, settled in. That's where he's at."
The `he' in question here is 310-pound defensive tackle Greg Kuhar, a redshirt sophomore who joined that line's rotation midway through last season and who (coincidentally enough) will turn 21 the morning after making his first career start against Cal. "Yeah. At the end of last year, I had a lot more confidence," he will say when asked about his coach's analogy. "Right when I got in, the first few games I was playing, I was like nervous. But toward the end, after just one good game, I had all sorts of confidence at the end of the year. Right now, I'm just real confident about the season. So I'm very excited."
So everything has settled down for him, as his coach noted?
"For sure," he says. "Every time the offenses changes something, we're going to make a check. At first, when I was out there as a freshman, I was looking everywhere, hearing all these different calls. Now, after being there a whole year, you know what's going to happen when someone moves from watching film. You already know what they're going to call, so you can anticipate it. So, yeah. It's a lot easier mentally in a game now."
AND FINALLY, Tony Jones, long regarded as the quickest of 'Cats, on Rutgers' transfer Miles Shuler, who is slated to see action Saturday as a receiver and both a punt and kickoff returner: "He's fast. Miles is fast. I don't usually give too many guys that label, of just being flat-out fast. But Miles is extremely fast. So I think having another deep threat out there with me will definitely pay dividends. I'm looking forward to it."
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