Aug. 11, 2014
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave saw something in freshmen wide receivers Natrell Jamerson, George Rushing and Krenwick Sanders that should bode well for their future, and his. They catch the ball.
“I’ve seen them all make nice catches,’’ Stave said. “You have to get off press coverage. You have to beat man-to-man coverage. And then when you do, you’ve got to be able to make a catch. Those guys can do that and they’ve all shown that.
“They’re good athletes, they’re good players. There’s obviously a lot of room for improvement but they know that and coach (Chris) Beatty knows that and they’re working hard to get better and where they need to be. I think they’re going to be good players for this team.’’
Jamerson, Rushing and Sanders all came up with catches in Sunday’s scrimmage, though Sanders’ “reception’’ was deemed out-of-bounds by the Big Ten officiating crew that was on hand, along with more than 5,000 fans who took advantage of the open practice at Camp Randall Stadium.
Sanders still made Stave’s point. He wasn’t able to get one foot down but he made a turning, twisting catch along the boundary. He’s obviously raw; a work in progress. So are Jamerson and Rushing. And there’s another point to be made: they’re all going through the same adjustments together.
“It’s a little better knowing someone else is having the same struggles that I’m having,’’ conceded Sanders. “I’m not really 100 percent sure on everything.
“Krenwick is my roommate,’’ Jamerson pointed out, “and if we need help on a formation or something, we help each other out. There are still things that I have to work on.’’
“We have a whole big freshman class,’’ noted Rushing, “and we definitely rely on each other. You’re no longer the big man on campus and you have to learn how to humble yourself.’’
Each has their own story.
The 6-foot-1, 193-pound Sanders originally committed verbally to the “state’’ school – the University of Georgia – because “I always wanted to go there’’ growing up in Jesup, Ga. “But Wisconsin stayed on me the whole time and was the first school to call after I decommitted,’’ he said.
Basketball was his favorite sport, maybe even his best sport, up until his sophomore year at Wayne County High School. “That’s when I realized that football was going to be a way for me to go to college and get an education,’’ Sanders said.
The numbers speak volumes for his dominance. He finished his prep career with 199 catches for 3,613 yards and 56 touchdowns. His signature game was Wayne County’s 49-34 win over Monroe. He caught six passes for 279 yards. All six went for scores from 60, 71, 20, 47, 52 and 29 yards.
“But there are a lot more things to learn here,’’ he admitted.
Jamerson would agree that there has been a significant jump in competition. “From what I’ve seen so far, it’s an eye-opener,’’ he said. “Everyone is just as big and just as fast and maybe better (than high school) so you have to come out and compete every day.’’
Jamerson opened some eyes with his play at Vanguard High School in Ocala, Fla. As a senior, he had 68 catches for 1,196 yards and a school-record 17 touchdowns – 14 receiving and three on kickoff returns. At 5-11, 180, he’s stronger than he looks. Last year, he benched 325.
Athletically, he has been compared favorably to another former Vanguard product, P.J. Williams, a starting cornerback on Florida State’s national championship team. As a sophomore, Williams was the defensive MVP against Auburn with seven tackles and a pick in the title game.
In some obvious passing situations, Jamerson was utilized as a defensive back last season. His main goal now is to contribute as a wide receiver and on special teams. “I have to stay in the playbook and study everything I can,’’ he said, “and I have to come out here every day and show it on the field.’’
Developing that type of consistency, day-in and day-out, is part of the challenge for the freshmen. “It’s a grind, like I thought it would be, and we’re all getting used to it,’’ said Rushing. “You have to learn how to be in the playbook, how to watch film and how to be on your own.’’
Rushing has also learned some things from his father who played tight end at Florida for Steve Spurrier in the early ‘90s. He has encouraged his son to “compete and show what you can do.’’ And the 6-1, 190-pound Rushing feels like he’s getting there. “But I have to improve each day,’’ he said.
Rushing was part of a dynamic offense at Cardinal Gibbons High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Quarterback Peyton Bender had multiple receiving options in Rushing, Trevon Lee and Christian Blake. All four earned scholarships; Bender to Washington State, Lee to Duke and Blake to Northern Illinois.
Reviewing his first week in Wisconsin’s preseason training camp, Rushing concluded, “Everything is starting to slow down a little bit now.’’ Jamerson and Sanders would tend to agree.