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September 1, 2009During the slow summer months, news travels quickly around the Anderson Football Complex. Sure, the coaches aren't allowed to watch the players go through offseason workouts, but that doesn't mean they don't hear things.
They notice when the strength coaches marvel at how a certain player goes through drills. They listen when the players rave about how a certain freshman performs during 7-on-7 workouts. And all summer long, one freshman's name kept coming up over and over again: wide receiver Bradley McDougald.
At that point though, it was still all hype. It wasn't that the coaches didn't think the kid could play. McDougald was one of the top rated high school players in Ohio, he was initially recruited by some of the top schools all over the country, but still, there have been summer workout warriors in the past that faltered when it came time to put on the helmets and pads.
So they started McDougald off on the scout team. If their plan was to bring him along slowly, it didn't last long. T
he freshman impressed coaches with his quick ability to pick up the offensive system, and his freakish athletic ability made it hard to keep him off the field. Soon, he was practicing with the first team and before he knew it Mangino was in front of a group of reporters calling McDougald the best freshman wide receiver he had seen at Kansas. So much for keeping him under the radar.
"I have not had a freshman wide receiver do what he has done since I have been here," Mangino said at the time.
On Tuesday, someone told McDougald of Mangino's praise, and the freshman nodded.
"I took it as a compliment like anybody would but I am sure after he said that he mentioned a lot of things that I could get better at," McDougald said.
Obviously, his early success hasn't exactly gone to his head yet. Teammates describe McDougald as "all smiles," and a "big time jokester," and say that his laid-back demeanor might benefit him on the field.
"It definitely helps him that he is not stressed at all," Kale Pick said.
Although that doesn't mean there are times when the freshman still isn't wide-eyed. McDougald says he sometimes feels intimidated when he sees the all-star group of receivers that lines up alongside him.
His favorite moment in camp came when he saw Dezmon Briscoe snag a one-handed grab during one-on-on drills, something he calls "just another day in the life of Briscoe."
During the offseason, every freshman was assigned a "big brother," which is an older player who helps the younger player during their first year. McDougald was assigned wide receiver Kerry Meier.
"When you are around these types of guys every day, you just try to pick up the little things that they do," McDougald said. "Just the way they run their routes or the way they train and work out. "
Wide receivers coach David Beaty has noticed McDougald's study habits. He said all of his freshmen wide receivers have good football aptitude, but McDougald's understanding of the game is special.
"I can tell him something one time and he gets it."
Of course, it will all come down to how he plays on the field when the games begin for real this Saturday. McDougald will likely see a lot of action at slot receiver against Northern Colorado. Count running back Jake Sharp as a guy that doesn't think the pressure will get to the young wide receiver.
"Mentally, he's where he needs to be for a freshman," Sharp said. "It's usually the mental aspect that will separate freshmen from other freshmen to be able to play early. He's really showcased some maturity in that aspect."