Utah State football: Seniors leading wide receiver group
By Kyle Goon
The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published Aug 16 2013 05:55PM
Logan • The toughest thing about being a wide receiver in fall camp, coach Matt Wells said, is that it never seems like you can stop moving. Route after route, the receivers sprint until they’re huffing and puffing.
That’s why Wells said he’s been impressed with the leadership of Travis Reynolds and Travis Van Leeuwen. He can count on them to keep going even when they’ve been wearing out their legs for 16 practices.
"I’m proud of their work ethic," he said. "That’s a hard position to play in training camp. That’s a lot of running. From the minute we start walk-throughs and jog-throughs, those guys are always running."
But even before camp started, the Aggies’ senior receivers took their business seriously. Reynolds and Van Leeuwen — receivers coach Jovon Bouknight called them "The Travises" — led the group meetings, were working hard in the weight room, and headed up the offseason player workouts.
The unit lost its top three receivers last year, but one of the biggest things to replace was Matt Austin’s vocal and mental leadership. Reynolds and Van Leeuwen have made the biggest strides to fill those shoes.
"It’s just a matter of those guys understanding that he’s not there, his presence isn’t there, but we’ve got to have that leadership," Bouknight said. "Both of those guys have stepped in since Matt’s been gone, and we haven’t missed a beat."
Bouknight has also seen great strides from Jojo Natson and Brandon Swindall, which also reflects on the Travises. They’ve made sure the younger players and newcomers are studying their playbooks, refining techniques.
Reynolds’ "little brothers" on the team are Natson and Ronald Butler, and he takes that call — and the group’s overriding desire to build unity — very seriously.
"Me being one of the leaders of this group, I have to take on big responsibilities," Reynolds said.
No worries on fatigue
At the end of Friday’s morning practice, the team let out a huge cheer. Wells had just told them they’d get to end the day watching movies instead of hitting each other in a scheduled second practice.
Sixteen practices in and a day before the team’s third fall scrimmage, Wells said he’s been happy with the way his team has worked. Not every day is perfect, he said, but the Aggies haven’t disappointed him either. There’s normal wear and tear, but no bottom-out fatigue.
"We’ve never had a bad energy day or a bad focus day," he said. "We have days that are exceptional and days that are pretty good. Today was a pretty good day."
Wells said he was looking for his team to keep pushing through the last week of practice. This, he said, is when champions are made.
"Everybody in the Mountain West is tired right now," he said. "Everybody is banged up, everybody is bruised up right now. The charge to our guys is compete for the Mountain West Championship in August, and that will help you put yourself in a position to compete in November. I think our guys came out and they’re grinding through it."
Sunday appears to be the big decision day for Utah State’s redshirts. Wells said Saturday’s 6 p.m. scrimmage will factor into the personnel decisions the coaching staff has to make. … Returners on the special teams are not yet decided. Van Leeuwen and Hayden Weichers were among those who got some special teams reps on Friday.