Wildcats Receiver Wants To Go For The Downs

Posted: October 28, 1987

At least one Villanova receiver wants quarterback Kirk Schulz to go more often for football's version of the downs.

Fittingly, his name is Greg Downs. And however far Schulz cares to fling the football, this fellow seems to feel that his 4.58 40-yard speed will get him there to catch it.

"Kirk's a great quarterback," Downs was saying yesterday, before Villanova (5-1) practiced in anticipation of Saturday's 1 p.m. game at Connecticut (3-4). "He's smart. He knows the game well. He calls great audibles. He throws the ball so you don't get caught in places you don't want to be. He throws it so you can choke down as you're making the catch, so you don't get yourself killed.

"The only thing is, he doesn't throw deep enough. That's his only weakness.

"I consider myself to be pretty fast. I like to run deep patterns. Sometimes he doesn't seem to have the confidence that his arm is strong enough to throw the ball way downfield."

Oh, well. Barring a drastic change in the methodology of Schulz and coach Andy Talley, Downs will have to continue catching short- and medium-range passes and taking them way downfield.

Split end Bob Brady, a redshirt sophomore, qualifies as the Wildcats' pass- catching whiz, considering that he already boasts 28 receptions for 488 yards and eight touchdowns this season. But Downs, a 5-8, 160-pound ''regular" sophomore, had seven catches for 67 yards and a TD in last Saturday's 41-28 loss at Northeastern, and now ranks second on the squad in receiving yardage (201).

In pure athletic skills, Downs might rank first among the Wildcats. He played quarterback, running back and wide receiver at Archbishop Carroll High in Washington D.C., and before he's finished at Villanova, the fans could see him at halfback, cornerback and point guard.

Point guard?

"Rollie Massimino saw him playing basketball and asked him to try out for the team," Talley said.

"I didn't play at Carroll because I didn't get along with the coach," Downs said. "There was too much favoritism. But I love basketball. I was always playing in boys club leagues. I've been thinking about taking 'Coach Mass' up on his offer. He told me to come talk to him after our season is over.

"The hard part would be, the basketball team opens its season (Nov. 27 in a tournament in Hawaii) about a week after our last football game. And I don't know how I'd feel about giving up my Christmas break."

Meanwhile, sticking Downs at halfback or cornerback is merely an idea bouncing around in Talley's head.

"As the flanker, Greg is always lined up on the wide side of the field and it's tougher to throw over there," Talley said. "We've tried to do some things to get him the football. We've run a reverse with him, and a reverse pass, and he ran an option play last Saturday for two points off a toss-sweep look.

"He's a versatile kid with game-breaking capabilities. We are exploring doing other things with him, maybe even using the wishbone in goal-line situations and running him out of that. He could be a good running back. We've even thought about using him defensively as a nickel back. The more Scott Thompson (Downs's freshman backup, from West Catholic) comes along, the more inclined we might be to do that."

As a senior at Carroll, Downs played mostly wide receiver and a little bit of running back. He was a quarterback the year before, thanks largely to a publicity campaign, of sorts, mounted by his former youth coach, Henry Jackson.

"He gave Carroll's coach a bunch of newspaper clippings about how I'd been a really good quarterback," said Downs, who hails from the D.C. suburb of Forestville, Md. "The stories were only a few paragraphs long, but since we threw a lot, my name was usually in the headline.

"I began my junior year as the third-string QB. Then the first two guys got hurt and I had to start the opener. Later I switched between running back and receiver."

Wherever he played, Downs often spun defenders around like a top. In his final season, he managed a four-TD outing (all in the first half) against St. John's of D.C.

"Three were on passes and one was on a reverse," he said. "They all went to the same side of the field and I beat the same defensive back. Our coach was teasing me. He was saying, 'You know that guy back there? Y'all friends? Is he letting you do this?'

"That same guy is now playing for Catholic U. I was hoping to get him again this year, but they didn't throw to me much (no receptions)."

Although Downs visited Delaware and Boston University in addition to Villanova, and had planned to travel to Holy Cross, he decided to cut the recruiting process short and sign with the Wildcats. His major reason: The chance to play varsity as a freshman. At second-choice Delaware, he would have been forced to spend a season on a frosh-only team.

"I was pretty worried when I got here," Downs said. "I looked around, saw the size of some of these guys and said, 'Is this there I really want to be?' But things have gone pretty well.

"Bobby Brady is a great receiver and I don't mind that he gets a lot of passes. But I'd like to see kind of a Lynn Swann-John Stallworth setup, where we both do a lot of receiving. I don't think too many teams could stop us.

"Yeah, I think we're headed in that direction. It looks like they're trying to incorporate me more and more into the offense."

In time, maybe Villanova fans will even see passes thrown to Greg Downs for the downs.

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