U's Decker to attract even more coverage

  • Article by: KENT YOUNGBLOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 7, 2009 - 9:40 PM

Not from frustrated defensive backs, but from the media as the Gophers promote him as a Biletnikoff Award candidate.

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The Gophers use receiver Eric Decker in a variety of ways, and now they want to get him more recognition for his efforts. The sports information office is undertaking an effort to promote Decker for the Biletnikoff Award, given to college football’s top receiver.

Photo: Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

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Gophers offensive coordinator Mike Dunbar calls it the Decker list.

It's a long one, and it contains all the different ways the Gophers can use wide receiver Eric Decker -- at one end or the other, in the slot, in motion or in the backfield.

Most of those plays involve Decker beating his man, running a precise route and catching the ball. But there are also running plays and even a few that involve Decker throwing the ball.

"It's in," Dunbar said, laughing, after Tuesday's practice. "We practice it every week. It just hasn't happened in a game yet."

So the list includes receiving plays, running plays and passing plays. Given the gargantuan size of Dunbar's playbook, you can assume the Decker list is a long one.

Well, now the Gophers are trying to put Decker on another list.

With Decker leading the nation in receiving yards (696) and receiving yards per game (116), the folks at the University of Minnesota sports information office are about to kick-start a little publicity campaign for Decker, who one ESPN reporter called the best receiver no one knows about.

Time for that to change.

It's too late for the Heisman, given to the top college football player in the nation, even though Decker is also second in the nation in receptions (50).

Andy Seeley is associate director of athletic communications for the Gophers. Seeley said his department is determined to make Decker better-known. It's already happening: Tuesday, between interviews with three reporters, Decker was also doing a couple of national phone interviews.

Seeley said Minnesota will start promoting Decker in e-mails to media around the country. There will be a strong push to get Decker considered for the Biletnikoff Award, given annually to college football's top receiver. It won't be easy, because Decker wasn't on the preseason "watch list" for the award. But last year's winner, Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree, wasn't on the watch list, either.

Other lists the Gophers would like for Decker to be on would include consideration for all-conference and All-America honors. Much of that could happen if Decker finishes the season the way he started it. And if he does? Look for the Gophers to go full-tilt into Heisman hype mode next fall.

Until then, Dunbar will keep trying to find ways to get Decker the ball. Decker will concentrate on catching said ball and not worry about catching on nationally.

"It's still early in the season," Decker said. "There is still a lot of ground I have to cover, a lot of things to be accomplished yet for that to be thrown around. But it's something I can build towards and work towards. It's an honor to be where I'm at right now."

Right now Decker is a consummate receiver. He can get open against anyone, it seems. Ohio State worked harder than anyone to contain him and he still made five catches. Last week he had a 13-catch, 190-yard game against Indiana that included a nasty blow to the head after making a key third-down reception in the second half. After wobbling off the field, he regathered his wits, passed a cognitive test on the sidelines and returned to action.

Gophers coach Tim Brewster raves about Decker's blocking on running plays. Is there anything Decker can't do?

"People are concerned or nervous that we're throwing to Eric too much," quarterback Adam Weber said. "I don't think that's a problem. He keeps catching the ball, so what's the problem?"

Maybe getting him to catch on nationally, but don't worry -- the Gophers are working on it. And, when pressed, even Decker said he's been paying a little attention since Seeley told him last Sunday he was leading the nation in receiving.

"Yeah, I checked," Decker admitted. He noticed right away that a couple of receivers from Rice -- Jarett Dillard and James Casey -- also were in the top four. He also saw that Rice has a bye this week.

"Good to see that," Decker joked.

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