Oregon wide receivers dropped several passes thrown in the first quarter against Bowling Green and Portland State. Curiously, one might think that nerves were an issue, but each of the receivers was experienced and playing against lesser opponents.
The late former Oregon coach Jerry Frei admonished his staff when members were critical of Bobby Moore (Ahmad Rashad) when he was fumbling frequently while playing tailback for the Ducks in 1969-70. He reminded his coaches “players never fumble or miss passes on purpose. Ask yourself if you did everything you could to prepare that athlete to be successful in the position you put him in.”
Duck coaches need to put their receivers in the same positions in the games as they were in practice making the right moves. That a couple of receivers are having some problems indicate that unless they improve their skills and concentration, coach Mario Cristobal may have to find others to depend on when the Ducks start playing good teams that have good players on defense.
Bob Newland, a Duck All-American receiver who caught a lot of balls from Dan Fouts, observed that some receivers try to catch belt-high passes with their palms down, which might be OK if you have glue on your fingers. But if the ball is bobbled, the receiver has no leverage to catch it. If you have your palms up with outstretched fingers, you have more strength and give in your hands to control a pass that might be juggled.
A veteran NFL tight end, Tony Gonzalez, caught more than 1,000 passes in his career and advises pass catchers to put their thumbs and index fingers against each other (like when the Ducks make the “O” with their gloves) with pressure, so the hands will stop the momentum of the pass and be in position to close together around the ball.
Coaches will also paint the seams at the end of the ball different colors and have the receivers call out the color as they catch it, helping them learn to focus on a more precise target.
Good receivers don’t usually use their bodies to help catch the ball because it can bounce off the chest, and it’s easier for a defender to reach around and knock the ball away. Best to catch the ball with your fingers in front of your body and then tuck it away high and tight. Defensive players today are well coached in pulling on one end of the ball and ripping it away from the receiver in a lawn-mower starting motion.
Count the passes caught with good hand fundamentals Saturday and how many are dropped by poor fundamentals or lack of concentration.
Former Oregon player Ken Woody coached college football for 18 years, including as an assistant at Oregon, Washington, Washington State and Utah State.