Not as easy as X, Y, Z
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- The education of Marshall receiver Josh Knight took another turn Wednesday morning, as the true freshman was shifted inside to slot receiver.
He took second- and third-team reps in his first shifts away from the "Z" receiver spot. The goal: Make him versatile enough to play both positions, inside and outside.
"I think he's going to have to," said Mike Furrey, receivers coach. "When you're a freshman [and] we need someone to fill in, you've got to do everything. And I think once you understand that, [we] kind of put it all on them and they grasp the idea, the game slows down and you're versatile, just like Demetrius Evans."
Oh, yes, Evans. From the "X" position, the senior slid into the slot in the past week and then took a near-full day of reps Wednesday at "Z." That's a solid example for a young receiver.
"It's been great, just to know they have confidence to put me anywhere," Evans said. "It's just my knowledge I can go anywhere. I've been in the backfield in certain formations, I've been primary outside, I go to the slot every now and then. I'm up for the job."
Injuries have played a role in the occasional shifts. Super-slot Tommy Shuler is easing into action after a foot injury, still being limited to individual drills. Craig Wilkins, the top "Z" coming out of spring, is working his way back from injury. Davonte Allen, the speedy "X" man with great promise but wretched injury luck, has returned.
Justin Hunt, another true freshman becoming more certain to play, has run his way to prominence in the "X" sweepstakes. Allen's return probably triggered Shawney Kersey's shift to the other side, where he split reps with Evans.
Kersey and Evans had easier transitions to the "Z" spot. Moving a first-year freshman inside? That requires a little coaching.
"It just involves more focus, a little bit more thinking," Knight said. "When [do] you bend your route, when [do] you sit in the hole."
"To be honest, X and Z are pretty similar. You put your other foot back when you line up," Furrey said. "But for the slot, it's completely different - you've got a lot more traffic that you have to handle, the ball comes on you a lot of faster so when you turn around, you'd better be ready for that ball.
"That's a transition, and you've got to be used to that, and I think Josh will be used to that coming into next practice."
Knight came to MU from Fort Pierce, Fla., perhaps an hour north of coach Doc Holliday's usual south Florida recruiting breadbasket. Hunt was lured out of Memphis, Tenn., where he helped lead Whitehaven High to Tennessee's Class 6A championship, then nearly swept the 110- and 300-meter hurdles at the state large-school track meet.
Both liked what Marshall's uber-tempo offense can do, and saw how it needs a surplus of receivers to make it go. As it happened, both had a common host on their official recruiting visit: Allen.
Hunt and Knight probably will have one more thing in common when the Herd takes the field Aug. 31 against Miami (Ohio): They'll likely play, both on special teams and in scrimmage downs. As that date approaches, they're feeling confidence.
"I control my own destiny as far as how hard as I work," Knight said. "If I keep learning more of the routes, getting more in tune with the quarterbacks and everything, I'll be all right."
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5140, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.