Tre Young led the S.C. State football team last season in receiving, but he wasn't quite satisfied with what he had accomplished. Neither was his position coach, Howard Feggins.
Five games into his senior season, Young leads the Bulldogs once more in receptions, but everyone is a lot happier with his overall performance.
"The first thing is his maturity level has grown. That has made a big difference," Feggins said. "His ability to focus has improved."
Young went through games last season when he'd follow up a big play by not doing what he was supposed to do for a play or two, a trait Feggins found maddening.
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"I told him that if he wants an opportunity to play at the next level, he has to be focused."
Young doesn't dispute his coach's assessment. He knew that he had something to prove this time around and set out to do just that.
"This is a big year for me. I'm working on consistency, basically. That's my focus," Young said. "I feel like I'm working at it and giving my all every snap."
S.C. State's opponents are discovering just how focused he is. Entering Saturday's 2 p.m. MEAC showdown against Florida A&M at Oliver C. Dawson Stadium, Young has 25 catches for 346 yards, both conference-leading totals, and two touchdowns. He also has returned 13 kickoffs for a 26.5 average, including one for an 86-yard touchdown in the victory against Bethune-Cookman.
The Bulldogs (4-1, 2-0 MEAC), who are ranked No. 11 nationally in the FCS poll, will need a big effort from Young against the No. 22 Rattlers (4-1, 2-0). The only loss for both teams came to ranked FBS foes - South Carolina for the Bulldogs and Miami (Fla.) for the Rattlers. The game could go a long way toward determining the MEAC title and the conference representative in the FCS playoffs. S.C. State won 28-21 last season on the way to the MEAC championship.
"It's going to be a pretty good game," Young said. "They were pretty good last year, and they've got a lot of returnees."
So do the Bulldogs, whose offense is the perfect mix of run and pass with skill players like Young, quarterback Malcolm Long, and running back Will Ford. They've helped the offense gain 942 yards through the air and 751 on the ground.
"We have a lot of confidence in Malcolm getting the ball to all the receivers with his knowledge of the game and his arm strength," Young said. "It helps a whole lot when you can throw and run the ball, especially with a player like Will Ford in the backfield."
As the go-to guy in the receiving corps, Young continues to move up the school's all-time pass-catching charts. With 89 receptions for 1,321 yards in his career, he needs 28 catches and 213 yards to become the leader in both categories. He piles up that yardage with what he does after catching the ball.
"It's amazing," Feggins said. "We like to throw screen passes to him because of his ability to break a tackle."
The same holds true on kickoff returns, where the 6-foot-1, 190-pounder makes things happen with his speed and his strength.
"He's a big-play threat every time he touches the ball, that's what he is," said Feggins, the passing-game coordinator who played collegiately with North Carolina and professionally with the New England Patriots in the NFL.
Young doesn't get too fixated on his place in the record books, however. As he has matured, he has come to learn that it's more important to stay focused on the next game and the next play in front of him. He now understands that thinking only about the big play isn't the way to make one happen.
"I try not to think about it.," he said. "I take every play like another snap. I'm just trying to give my 100 percent and let things happen. Coach says don't press the issue. Let the game come to you."
That's music to the ears of Feggins, who didn't start Young in the playoff game last season at Appalachian State to make a point. He has enjoyed seeing less kidding around from Young and more attention to things like watching film on his own and taking care of his body.
"He's done all the things to be as successful as he is at this point," Feggins said.