Ole Miss wide receiver Laquon Treadwell will more than likely be the first wide receiver selected in the 2016 NFL Draft, and for good reason. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Illinois native was a monster in 2015, catching 82 balls for 1,153 yards and 11 touchdowns and using his size and strength to outmuscle and out-jump defenders to snare anything thrown his way. Those stats are particularly impressive when you remember that Treadwell broke his fibula and dislocated his ankle in 2014, causing him to miss Ole Miss's final four games.
After that injury Treadwell linked up with David Robinson, a man who describes himself as George Whitfield (the quarterback guru) for wide receivers. Robinson played at the University of Oklahoma from 2002 to 2006 before he began working with wideouts, and he has since spent time training NFL guys like Emmanuel Sanders, Rueben Randle, Jordan Reed and Adrian Peterson—plus a few other top college prospects, like TCU's Josh Doctson and Colorado State's Rashard Higgins.
STACK caught up with Robinson to discuss how he's been preparing Treadwell for the NFL, Treadwell's performance at the Combine and why receiver speed is vastly overrated.
STACK: When did you first link up with Laquon?
David Robinson: After he broke his leg in college. I could see what he needed to work on with his pad level and his route running. He had a tendency to pop up instead of staying low, which gave away his routes. He'd drop his arms a lot. We've been working over the course of college to now, and he's more polished now than a lot of scouts thought he would be at the Combine.
What is a typical day like working with him?
Our sessions would last for an hour and a half or so. We did a lot of ball drills. We did a lot of tracking the ball over his shoulder and showing his hands late. When tracking deep balls, a lot of receivers have a tendency to drop their arms instead of keep running, so we were working with Laquon on keeping his arms moving and showing his hands at the last minute. We did a lot of press/release drills, because he had a tendency of being high versus press because he's a big receiver.
After that, we put cones out in front of him to work on his footwork and his arm motion, making sure he's explosive coming out of his breaks. After that, we did conditioning. Then I sat him on the ground and threw footballs at him while he's lying on the ground and catching them at each angle. Then I'd even have him lie flat on his back and throw the ball at him while he catches it on his back. Then I'd have him roll over, and he'd end back on his back and I'd throw the ball and he'd roll over another way. When he's coming out of rolling over, his vision is blurry. I was doing that to get him used to, when receivers come out of their routes, their vision is blurry, to get your eyes focused back on the football very quickly.
You worked a bit to prepare him for the NFL Combine. What were your biggest areas of focus?
Making sure he wasn't thinking a lot while he's running his routes. He wants to be perfect. He wants to be Rookie of the Year, he wants to make the Pro Bowl. My focus in getting with him is to play fast. Whether you do it right or wrong, play fast. Play fast when you start the route, play fast when you finish the route. I put him through drills where he'd visualize himself in a phone booth. If you pop up in a phone booth, you're going to hit your head. We related that a lot to his route running. By staying low, he's more under control. And he really liked that.
Having watched him at the Combine, how do you think he did?
If I had to give him a grade, I'd give him an A- or B+. He looked real good on his curls and comebacks. He was pumping his arms more than what I saw in the past. I sent him a long note before the Combine on what to focus and work on. I told him to make sure to never stop your arms and never stop your feet. When you saw him run it, you could tell it was on his mind. On his 10-yard out, he had a habit of breaking down and chopping his feet. I told him, "Remember, a 10-yard out for you is six steps." When he ran it at the Combine, he ran it very fluidly. He wasn't breaking down like he had in the past.
Laquon caught flack for not running the 40-Yard Dash at the Combine, saying he would wait for his Pro Day. Given the criticism that he lacks "'top-end speed," do you think that decision hurt him?
You don't really have to be a burner to be a Hall of Fame wideout, is what I've always told him. I'd rather take a 4.5, 4.6 guy that has a lot of heart in him and work ethic rather than a 4.4 guy or 4.3 guy that can't stop. When you see the guys like Larry Fitzgerald, Reggie Wayne, Cris Carter, those are all 4.6 guys. Even Antonio Brown, he's 4.57. I 'm not really caught up on how fast he's going to run. I know he's probably going to run a 4.6 or 4.5. Even if he does run a bit slower than that, I still think he'll be a solid pick for anyone because he knows how to get open.
That's interesting. What do you mean by a fast guy who can't stop?
As a wide receiver, you need to know how to get open. The fastest guy doesn't always win in his route running, especially when the defenses start to play you over the top and play deep and take away your vertical stretch ability. If it's hard for you to stop, it's going to be easy to cover you. That's why when you do find a special guy, an A.J. Green or Julio Jones, 4.3, 4.4 guys that can stop on a dime . . .
Not to knock anyone's game, he'll be a good receiver in the NFL, but for instance, Will Fuller, when you saw him go through his 40, he blazed it. He ran a 4.33. But then when you see him go through the Gauntlet Drill, did he run it as fast as somebody like a Rashard Higgins? Higgins ran a 4.6, but ran through the Gauntlet Drill like it was second nature catching that ball, because he can control his body. When you watch Fuller run his intermediate routes, they don't look like 4.3 at all. They look like a 4.6, 4.7. His routes looked slow because he couldn't control his feet.
When you have a DB that's a 4.3, 4.4, that can run and knows how to read routes, if all you can do is go deep and they can run too, they're not going to be too fast to get out of their backpedal because they know you can't stop. When you get in their face and play bump-and-run and press coverage, it's going to be tough if he has a 10-yard out or a curl or a dig, because he's going to run it slower than he normally would because of his feet.
For the team that drafts Laquon, what will be his biggest strength, and what's the biggest thing he needs to keep working on?
He's going to have to get better at intermediate route running and his press release. But he's an in-receiver, a jump ball, end zone type of receiver. He's going to win a lot of those. And he's very, very good at going across the middle on third down, third-and-short, winning those slant routes and those money downs where you need to move the chains. That's where he'll shine at.
He never had any personal trainer or anyone to work with in high school. Everything that he's done has been on his own. So he definitely has the desire and work ethic that you want in a franchise wideout. Any team that picks him is going to be happy with him and work with him for a very long time.
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