Doucet's transition from QB to wide receiver taking hold
Wednesday, September 21, 2005 - 4:25 p.m.
By Jim Kleinpeter
BATON ROUGE – When LSU wide receiver Early Doucet was in high school, he made big plays on a regular basis.
For him, it was instinctive.
He was usually the best athlete on the field, and, as the quarterback of St. Martinville High School, he had the ball in his hands every play. When he ended his high school career two years ago, he was the No. 1 recruit in Louisiana.
Two weeks ago, Doucet made one of the biggest plays in LSU history when he soared through the air to bring down a fourth-down pass from JaMarcus Russell for the winning score in a 35-31 victory at Arizona State.
That catch was mostly the product of nearly two years of mistakes followed by corrections, study and practice. It reaffirmed that Doucet was well along in his transition from high school quarterback to college receiver.
"People forget Early was never a wideout in high school," said LSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher. "He played quarterback and they'd give him the ball and say, 'Here, go make everybody miss,' and nobody could tackle him and he made plays. Those guys all play fast with the ball. When you make the transition like Devery ( Henderson) did, like Skyler (Green) did, you have to learn to play fast without the ball, and that takes time and understanding how to get open to get the ball.
"Our kids understand how to work and what it takes. They're willing to pay that price and that's where I see it in Early."
The adjustment to wide receiver was "new" rather than "hard", Doucet said. There was more to it than he ever imagined, even though, as a prep quarterback, he had some insight into what a receiver does.
In the Arizona State game, Doucet dropped three passes in the first half.
But Doucet rallied and combined all of his learning with his unshakable confidence to make a play that lifted his team to victory and lifted the spirits of a hurricane-ravaged state. When the play broke down, the 6-foot, 206 pound sophomore reacted the way he was coached to in practice.
"We worked on the scramble drill in practice," said Doucet, who caught three balls for 62 yards. "(You) keep coming and get into the vision of the quarterback. We were in the same zone and we just connected on the play."
Said LSU coach Les Miles: "He came open late across the field and extended that route based on the scramble and JaMarcus knew he was going to be in that area.
"Early made a great catch, a very difficult catch. He caught it with his hands in an awkward way at a high speed and he comes down with a foot in bounds. That was a big-time play."
Doucet savored the moment, but not for long. He came out of it with a bruised chest, which kept him out of practice last week, though he returned to action Monday. That's when he set out to rectify the drops, which he chalked up to first-game jitters and a lack of concentration.
"I don't think the drops were me not being able to catch the ball," he said. "It was lack of concentration. I was overexcited trying to do too much. Once I got relaxed, I looked the ball in and made some plays at the end. Being able to not get down and bounce back says a lot about the person. My teammates having confidence in me helped me shake it off."
"Being able to read coverages, getting off the press and knowing what to do in certain situations, each day I'm getting a little better. People think it's just running routes and catching balls but there's a whole lot more to it."
As Doucet's knowledge and experience grow, it will only make him tougher for defenses to deal with. As a true freshman, he caught 18 passes for 257 yards and two touchdowns, and he appears to have the size and tools to succeed at the next level.
"Early Doucet it going to be a really fine football player here for the entire time," said Miles. "He is dangerous with the ball in his hands. He has a natural ability to catch it. He's a big, strong physical wide receiver with fine speed. I expect the best football from Early Doucet, you're about to see."