Enunwa muscles out on-field niche

MARK DAVIS/THE WORLD-HERALD

Quincy Enunwa’s teammates joke that he plays more like a lineman than a receiver. Here he stiff-arms Washinton’s Quinton Richardson.

FOOTBALL

Enunwa muscles out on-field niche



ORLANDO, Fla. — If Nebraska sophomore receiver Quincy Enunwa were calling plays, he’d dial up a run to start the game every time.

That’s the way the bullish and unforgiving contact-seeker likes to warm up: a pad-smacking crackback block.

Just something to remind opposing defensive backs that they have to spend four quarters banging with a confident, 6-foot-2, 210-pound receiver who’s identified his niche in year two: Be mercilessly physical.

“If I can go out there first play and get a big block — that’ll get me hyped, into the game, and I’m ready to go,” Enunwa said. “That’s what gets me going.”

The defenders know it’s coming, too. Most of the time, they brace themselves prior to impact, Enunwa said. They’ve been shouting out before the snap — “Watch the crackback!” — since the start of the season. Some seem to have intentionally played off Enunwa and his teammates at times just to avoid getting engaged in a line-of-scrimmage wrestling match.

Officials are occasionally cautioning Enunwa to “calm down,” he said — which, to him, doesn’t make much sense because he’s just using the same technique an offensive lineman would. In fact, Enunwa’s teammates jokingly refer to him as a lineman playing receiver.

He has been flagged for holding twice.

“Some people haven’t seen a physical receiver,” Enunwa said. “They don’t know what to do.”

It’s exactly what the coaches want from Enunwa, who’s found that his confidence has surged ever since he’s shed the tentative approach of his true freshman season and played more toward his strengths.

Enunwa, from Moreno Valley, Calif., caught one pass in 2010. He had just three others thrown his way. But he was running routes, oddly, like he had a size disadvantage all year.

He’s been a different guy in 2011, offensive coordinator Tim Beck said.

“I think he’s just getting older as a player,” Beck said. “He’s understanding what’s going on. When that happens, you can play faster. You can play harder.”

It’s that relentless approach as a blocker, Enunwa has found, that has been beneficial in the receiving game. He’s not a burner, so bodying defenders is a must. It helps when the corners are bailing the moment the football’s snapped.

“I just started going out there, knowing I’m bigger than most guys, using it to my advantage,” Enunwa said. “I’m not going to be the fastest guy out there, so we’ve got to have somebody who’s going to be physical.”

Heading into Monday’s Capital One Bowl, Enunwa leads his position group in its seasonlong blocking competition — a point-based chart that recognizes their knockdowns, big-play breakers, effective point-of-attack engagements and paralyzers.

He’s a valuable pass-catcher, too. He ranks third on the team with 21 receptions. He was targeted 10 times in Nebraska’s last two regular season games.

He’s been setting an example all year, senior receiver Brandon Kinnie said.

“He was always physical — but it’s just him watching it all and finally getting the hang of it, the speed of the game,” Kinnie said. “It just hit him. He’s the crackback king. He’s been doing well.”

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