By Adam Gibson | Sports Writer
As the Bears prepare for the football season to begin, one unit stands out from the rest with the amount of talent, speed and depth that it holds.
This year’s group of wide receivers, which contains only two senior players, has enough speed and talent in underclassmen to make up for any inexperience. Under new wide receivers coach Frisman Jackson, the wide receiver core is coached by someone who has experience not only with coaching, but in playing as a receiver himself.
Jackson played four seasons in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns, then moved to coaching at NC State, Temple, the Tennessee Titans and finally Baylor. During his time at Temple, Jackson was the wide receivers coach, as well as the passing game coordinator under current Baylor head coach Matt Rhule.
As a veteran receiver, Jackson knows what it takes to be a high-quality player and said the receivers have been impressive in training camp.
“I’ve got a pretty talented group. I’ve been mostly impressed by how hard they’ve come out and worked,” Jackson said. “I’m proud of the way the guys have been working. We’ve still got a lot to iron out as far as details and stuff like that, but as far as the energy and the way the guys have gone about things, I’ve been really impressed by how they’ve been working.”
Out of the 15 receivers, eight are returning upperclassmen, three sophomores and four freshmen. With a variety of ages on the team, Jackson said the upperclassmens’ experience helps the younger players to learn more about their role.
“They’re able to take some of the younger guys aside and go over the plays with them while I’m out there coaching some of the other guys up,” Jackson said. “Mims — those guys are able to grab the young guys under their wing, keep them extra after practice, just showing them how to be a pro and they’ve done a good job of that.”
Junior receiver Denzel Mims had a standout year in 2017 with a 1,000-yard receiving season, leading the team. Mims said with the group the Bears have this year, everyone has the potential to be a great player and has the ability to make big plays.
“Anybody can get the ball, really, with the talent we’ve got in the room,” Mims said. “Everybody in the room is good and talented so we are comfortable with them playing.”
Another point of focus for Jackson’s group is having a “never satisfied” mentality. That mentality leads them to be unsatisfied with even doing what they were supposed to do, so they can always find a way to improve their play to become the best they can be. Jackson said the players were already learning that mindset through camp.
“I told them, even if you make a great play, I’m always going to do better on it. They bought into it,” Jackson said. “When they make a great play I show it on film and they’re like, ‘Coach I could have did this.’ They’re starting to buy into the language and speak the language even before I have to. To me that means we are making progress and the guys not being satisfied with what they’re doing.”
Mims has bought into that mentality, and said when they have this certain perspective going into everything they do it causes the receivers to “always be hungry and have that added edge on us to do more.” That perspective then brings out the challenge of who is going to be the best in the group each practice.
“We look to come every day and compete, see who can get the most catches, who does the good things and who makes the least mistakes,” Mims said. “We hold each other accountable on things, so we try to be greedy and try to be competitive in the room to see who makes the most plays.”
The position’s core is deep with senior Chris Platt, who was out for most of last season with a knee injury, junior Pooh Stricklin and former SEC talent senior Jalen Hurd. Many of the players are going to get playing time, which means starters will have to come out and watch from the sideline. Jackson said each player will push the others to do better and will be able to take over when the time comes.
“The guys behind them have been able to push these guys and I feel really good about the next guy being able to step up and go in and play if we need him to,” Jackson said.
The wide receivers have the first opportunity to prove their depth of talent when the Bears host ACU at 7 p.m. Sept. 1 at McLane Stadium.