Part of what made Joseph Randle such a standout playmaker at Oklahoma State — and what makes him a legitimate NFL prospect — is his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.
And running backs coach Jemal Singleton said that will be the most difficult aspect of Randle’s game for the Cowboys to replace this coming season.
“I can’t say right now that I’m extremely comfortable with how we are catching the football, and that’s from top to bottom,” Singleton said.
Receiving has never been a strength of senior Jeremy Smith — remember those two drops on a key fourth-quarter drive in Ames in 2011? — as he enters 2013 with 15 career receptions for 112 yards. Junior Desmond Roland, who was an “athlete” recruit coming out of high school partly because of his receiving ability, has only been average in that area so far, Singleton said, and has never caught a pass in college. Sophomore Caleb Muncrief also never recorded a reception during his freshman season.
So pass-catching has become a major focus this spring, a time when teams can concentrate on themselves rather than worrying about game planning for an opponent. That means extra time on the Jugs machine and doing hand-eye coordination exercises like catching a tennis ball off a wall. That also means extra work making catches on the run during practice, both in drills and after the workout is over.
“We’ve gotta continue to keep hammering those fundamentals of using their eyes when they catch the football, looking the ball all the way into their (hands) and just becoming comfortable with it,” Singleton said. “And a lot of it is repetition, just doing it a bunch of times, catching those balls.
“Not just during practice, but on their own time, after practice, getting with the quarterbacks and catching more balls. It’s something that you really have to invest a good amount of time in.”