||Tuesday, January 1
Shockey becomes Dorsey's favorite target
By Bruce Feldman
ESPN The Magazine
PASADENA, Calif. -- Jeremy Shockey is always open. Always.
Of course sometimes, he might have two defenders draped all over him, but don't be fooled, he's still open. Don't believe him? Just listen to him squawk in that high-pitch Oklahoma twang of his to Miami QB Ken Dorsey, or anyone else within earshot.
"C'mon, Dorsey, gimme the bawl!"
The funny part is Shockey's usually right. He is open, well, open enough. Unlike most tight ends, the 6-foot-6, 246-pound junior has the quickness to get separation from linebackers and some strong safeties, but he also has the guile and size to muscle out receptions in traffic. Those are the biggest reasons why the Ada, Oklahoma product is the go-to guy in the Miami passing game. Shockey led the 'Canes with 40 catches for 519 yards while coming up with seven TDs.
"He is a great receiver and a guy I have total confidence in," says Dorsey.
That confidence was obvious right from the start of the season, when Miami opened up at Penn State Sept. 1. Dorsey had to deal with having his two star receivers -- Santana Moss and Reggie Wayne -- gone to the NFL, so he leaned on Shockey, who caught seven passes for 84 yards and a TD. On the touchdown, 10-yard reception, he outbattled two Nittany Lions for the score.
Dorsey began to really believe in Shockey in last season's game against Florida State. Back then, Shockey as still an unknown commodity. He had only been on campus for two months after having come from NE Oklahoma A&M JC to split time with senior Ivan Mercer. Dorsey was piloting the 'Canes on a last-minute drive that would ultimately validate the Miami program's resurgence.
With 46 seconds remaining and Miami down to the FSU 13-yard-line, Shockey -- playing on a badly sprained knee -- made eye contact with Dorsey in the huddle. As Miami was about to break for the line of scrimmage, Shockey nodded his head, "Look at me on this play," he said to the spindly sophomore QB, "I'll be open."
Dorsey listened and found Shockey uncovered (slightly) in the middle of the endzone. It was his first career TD catch at Miami. By season's end Shockey emerged as an All-American candidate. Not bad for a guy who was a 6-4, 210-pound wide receiver who was a forgotten recruit.
He originally committed to Oklahoma, but after then-Sooners coach John Blake was let go, the Sooners' new staff didn't pursue him. However, UM coach Larry Coker, an Oklahoma native, noticed him during A&M's spring game and kept after him and wound up landing a gem of a receiver. Last spring, Shockey even ran in the high 4.5s while continuing to develop as a blocker.
"It also doesn't hurt having an offensive coordinator (Rob Chudzinski) who is a former tight end," Shockey says. "But the main thing is I know Dorsey has trust in me."
Teammates describe Shockey as a quirky guy with an obsession for details. Everything has to be just so, whether it's being precise on his routes in practice or parallel parking his car. Dorsey calls Shockey "goofy. He's so Oklahoma," says the 'Cane QB. "But his confidence is contagious."
Freshman tight end Kellen Winslow Jr., the son of Hall of Fame TE Kellen Winslow, says Shockey is the guy who has taught him the most about blocking and the nuances of positioning and hand placement at the point of attack.
Still, blocking skills aside, expect Shockey on Thursday, again to be Dorsey's main man. Nebraska has already faced the other two of the Mackey Award finalists and has its share of struggles with them. Oklahoma's Trent Smith caught seven passes for 62 yards and a TD on the Huskers while Colorado's Daniel Graham -- the Mackey winner -- caught four for 112 yards and a touchdown. Considering how much attention the Husker safeties are likely to give to the Miami ground attack after having surrendered 380 rushing yards to Colorado in its last game, don't be surprised if the 'Canes go to Shockey early and often.
That's just how Shockey wants it.
Bruce Feldman covers college football for ESPN The Magazine. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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