Since announcing his coaching staff on February 11th, Urban Meyer has been hard at work evaluating his roster, potential free agents, and a whole lot more.
Last week he sat down with Jaguars.com Senior Writer John Oehser and spoke on a handful of topics. Let's take a look.
Johnny O asked Urban about what having elite players and coaches in the building means to him. Meyer noted that he's been around elite players and coaches in his day. But his definition of how elite happens is telling.
"I take that word very seriously," Meyer told Oehser. There's a term we're going to use: "The edge" is where average stops and elite begins. The greatest way to visualize that is practices. The first five practices in training camp, your body's fine, your mind's fine … everything is good. But what about after practice five? What about after practice 15? That's when your body starts shutting down on you a little bit, and fatigue starts to take over. What does the average player, the average coach, do at that time? They step backwards. What do elite people do? They push right through that edge. I like to say the edge is where average stops and elite begins. That's what I looked for in my coaching staff. In free agency and then draft, that's what we'll look for in players."
How does Meyer plan on "recruiting" elite players via free agency? Well, the Jaguars' available cap space won't hurt, but Meyer has a bigger plan in place.
"We're having a serious conversation about a facility here, a brand-new facility," said Meyer. "I've put together a sports performance team that I expect to be the best in the NFL. You're talking about Jacksonville, Florida … no state tax and all of the above … weather. I want this to be the destination place in the National Football League. Obviously, money plays a huge role, but if those start to get close: "We want to go to Jacksonville. Why? Great place to raise a family, great place to live, great weather, great tax situation. And oh, by the way: We have the best facility and the best support staff and best sports performance team in the NFL. That's the vision. That's the dream I have."
And on the subject of Trevor Lawrence — many pundits have been wondering if the Jaguars might potentially pass on Lawrence in favor of a different QB prospect. Meyer's comments to Oehser should put those notions to bed. Meyer was impressed by the on-field workout and even more so by Lawrence's attitude.
"We had extremely high expectations, and we were not disappointed. But even more than the actual Pro Day was the way he handled it. We found out just days earlier about his left shoulder, that he had a labrum issue that's very fixable – and by the way, it is fixed. He's in rehab now. He very well could have said, 'I'm not going to throw. I'm going to go, and you guys take me or not. I'm that good." The conversation was similar to this: 'Hey, what do you think?' 'Let's go.' That was the answer: 'Let's go.' I've seen him throw live at the Fiesta Bowl. I've watched him because of my job at Fox, and I've known Trevor quite a while. I wanted Schottenheimer and Bevell to see him live. I explained it to him (Lawrence), and he said, 'Let's go. Give me the ball. Let's go.' Seven days later, he was on the field throwing. Most kids, I would say, would not do that."
Meyer also touched on why he stood so close to Trevor during that Pro Day.
"I do like to get very close to a quarterback and hear. You say, 'Hear what?' I want to hear that ball leave his hand. I want to hear that ball go by my head. I do the same thing at practice. And I do want him to know we're right there. You'll see me do that with our kickers, too. I'm going to get real close to them. Life's about how you can respond to pressure."
Pressure can create diamonds or burst pipes. Meyer's going to figure out what he has in his players long before game day.
On Sunday evening, the NFL Twitter account shared a video of Laviska Shenault's rookie year highlights. Two things continue to stand out about Viska — his contested catch ability and his penchant for YAC. Viska was so strong with his body control and tracking when it came to winning in tight windows. And once he actually got the ball in his hands — watch out. Very rarely was the first defender able to take Shenault down. He had the second-highest YAC average of any rookie receiver (min. 60 targets), trailing on Chase Claypool.
So what should you expect from Shenault in year two?
I'd still expect Meyer and the Jaguars' offense to get the ball to him early and often, but I think you'll see more down-field targets for Shenault. He was excellent in the vertical passing game at Colorado, and in his limited opportunities down the field in 2020, Shenault performed well. Many fans have the misconception that Viska was primarily a slot receiver during his rookie year. But he actually lined up out wide 68.6% of the time. He did line up in the slot frequently, but he played more on the outside. Still, his ability to line up anywhere on the field is valuable and indeed an aspect of his game that Urban Meyer and Darrell Bevell will look to employ.
House of Athlete Combine
The House of Athlete combine took place last week in South Florida. For those unfamiliar with HOA, it's a performance training brand founded by former NFL receiver Brandon Marshall. More than a dozen 2021 prospects have been training at HOA, and they were on display late last week. There were some major standouts on the field and in the weight room. The Draft Network covered the event and supplied the media and fans with some testing numbers.
Georgia cornerback Eric Stokes had the most impressive workouts of anyone. He ran a blazing 4.25 40-yard dash and leaped 41.5 inches, showing teams around the league that he's one of the best athletes in the class.
Another intriguing performer, UNC linebacker Chazz Surratt, threw up 27 bench press reps. But noted for his athleticism, Surratt disappointed in the 40-yard dash. He officially ran a 4.64, which is by no means a nail in his proverbially draft coffin, but for a space linebacker that struggles with some of the physicality of the game, Surratt needed a better time than that.
Amari Rodgers continued his strong lead up to the draft, repping 225-pounds 24 times on the bench press. The diminutive receiver from Clemson showed off his route running chops at the Senior Bowl and continued to impress at the HOA combine. He's not the biggest or the fastest, but Rodgers looks the part of a receiver that can dominate from the slot at the next level.
Unheralded Iowa receiver Brandon Smith didn't blow scouts away with his 40 time of 4.56, but his strength and leaping ability were on full display. Standing 6'2", he weighed in at 215 pounds and put up 22 bench reps to go along with an eye-popping 44" vert. Coming from a less-than-stellar passing offense, Smith could be a prospect that fairs better in the pros than he did in college.
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