All eyes are on the newest Rice football wide receiver Luke McCaffrey, the focal point of our March 2022 Patreon Q&A.
On the opening day of spring practice, Rice football head coach Mike Bloomgren almost nonchalantly mentioned Luke McCaffrey had been the one who suggested he move from quarterback to wide receiver. The comments added further detail around the most high-profile position switch the Owls would be experimenting with this spring.
This month’s Q&A question focuses on that transition, more specifically, asking how McCaffrey looks at wide receiver so far.
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It only took a few minutes watching scrimmage from the bleachers at Rice Stadium to lock onto the No. 12 jersey streaking across the field. I watched eagerly as the offense lined up for one-on-one wide receiver/defensive back drills.
When it was McCaffrey’s turn he shot off the line like a sprinter, froze his man on a fake and exploded again on a post route. By the time the defensive back — who saw plenty of time on the field for Rice football last season — had swung his head around to locate McCaffrey, the speedy receiver had 10 yards of separation on his man, the ball, and a clear path toward the endzone.
“I would say the transition has been very smooth,” head coach Mike Bloomgren said after practice had concluded. Very smooth, indeed.
While things never seemed to click for McCaffrey when he was lining up under center, he suddenly looks like he’s been playing his new position for quite some time. In reality, he’s been doing it for roughly two weeks.
McCaffrey called the transition “a lot of fun” and something that was, for him, “very natural.” When asked what his thought process was as a made the switch, he didn’t seem to have any regrets. “Quarterback was something I loved,” he said. “But I’m so happy I made the switch.”
Swiss Army Knife
Beyond running routes for his brothers in the backyard growing up, the wide receiver position is completely new to him. This is the first time it’s ever been his full-time responsibility. Spending so much time in the quarterback room will only help him as he relearns his role in the offense from a different vantage point.
Wide receiver coach Mike Kershaw called McCaffrey the team’s “swiss army knife” referencing a title the coaching staff once used to describe do-it-all offensive weapon, Jordan Myers. When I brought up Myers in that context, Kershaw gave a nod, going on to mention the extra gear McCaffrey has which could make him even more dangerous in the open field.
“He’s that puzzle piece that has a lot of different prongs to it. The creativity you can come up with him is endless,” Kershaw said. “He will not stand in one spot.”
Kershaw wouldn’t rule out anything when it came to how Rice football might deploy McCaffrey in the offense. From the slot to the backfield to the wildcat to everything in between, there seemed to be no shortage of possibilities for how the Owls’ would utilize No. 12 in this offense.
Yes, it’s spring. It’s the first dose of football anyone has had in months and hope and aspirations run rampant. A few practices won’t turn McCaffrey into the silver bullet that takes this offense to another level. But it’s only taken a few exhibitions to reinforce the reality that McCaffrey is every bit the athlete we thought he’d be. And now he’s going to be funneled the ball with greater regularity.
The departure of Jake Bailey opens up a starting role in the slot. That’s where McCaffrey has spent most of his time lined up this far, and he’s made the most of his chances. He has real 4.4-type speed and it shows. Two weeks in, it’s already evident he has to be the Owls’ starter in the slot. How much larger of a role he commanders might be up to him and how he fairs over the next few weeks and throughout fall camp. So far, so good.
Photo Credit: Maria Lysaker
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