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Arizona Wildcats receiver David Douglas is reliable. He’s solid. He’s a nice possession receiver.
Those are often thrown around as back-handed compliments.
Would you believe he’s more athletic than you probably think?
“The first time I saw him play basketball, I was like, ‘Wow, where is that on the football field?’” said receivers coach Dave Nichol.
“He is sometimes too passive on the football field. Frankly, that’s a challenge to him. What I said to him was that he wasn’t making certain plays that showcase the athleticism he has.”
Douglas is hoping that changes in his senior year. He has put on 15 pounds, playing at about 205. Somewhere behind that Opie-looking face is a maturing, tough athlete ready to punch through his previous stereotypes.
“I’ve always been a pretty good basketball player,” he said.
“I can jump, get up and dunk and do all that stuff. Last year, in football, I could show it in bursts but I have to be that way all the time. That is what I emphasized in the offseason, getting more physical, gaining weight.
“I will become a more physical blocker and be able to break arm tackles — just be a physical player. That is what I have been trying to become.”
Douglas is known for his good hands, and he made 86 catches in the past two seasons, including 52 last year with five touchdowns. Those 86 catches, though, only went for a 10-yard average.
Those hands are why Arizona has used him as a punt returner in spots, putting him back there when the return team is in “safe” mode. Just catch it. Don’t do anything fancy.
With projected starting punt returner Jonathan McKnight out with an ACL tear, Douglas is expected to get more opportunities in the return game, with shifty receiver Richard Morrison also rotating in.
On offense, Douglas can seamlessly move between Arizona’s outside receiver positions and its inside receiver spots.
“I think he’s really started to grow up and mature,” said quarterback Nick Foles.
“He’s a lot bigger than he was last year. He didn’t really change anything; he just kept working. He’s always been really confident in himself. You put him in any sport — tennis, golf, anything … he’s one of the best athletes I have ever met.
“He has to transition that to the football field, and if he does, he’ll be a really special player.”