MONROE, N.C. | With his chiseled frame and fluid movements, it’s easy to tell Jody Fuller apart from his Sun Valley (N.C.) teammates.
But if you didn’t already know that he was a receiver, it might not be that easy to discern his position of choice. At 5-foot-11, 200 pounds, he looks the part of a new-age, lanky tailback with the skills to be a multidimensional threat.
In reality, he is a standout receiver in the body of a former tailback. Perhaps it’s those characteristics, along with his run-after-the-catch ability, that made him a priority for his school of choice, South Carolina.
Fuller will certainly bring a multifaceted skill set to Columbia, where his position may change as much – often on a play-by-play basis – as it does at Sun Valley. If you need a comparison, think of him as a poor man’s Percy Harvin.
“We’re going to try and get the ball in Jody’s hands 15 to 20 times a game and let him do his thing,” Sun Valley coach Scott Stein said. “We’ll hand it to him some, he’ll get it some in kick returns, and then, of course, receiving the ball. I’m sure that people will try and take him away from us.
“Slot is more than likely where he’ll be. But we’ll put him back there at tailback some. We do that a lot. He runs the jet sweep for us. Other times we motion him in. It just depends. If they are doing a lot of box stuff against him on the perimeter, we’re not going to let somebody take him away.”
Sun Valley has big ambitions in 2011 after finishing 10-3 and advancing to the second round of the Class AAAA state playoffs last fall. Combining to form a deadly duo, Fuller and scatback JaDarrius Williams are a big reason why.
In many ways they help offset each other, making it impossible for the opposition to focus solely on stopping the other. Fuller caught 80 passes for more than 800 yards, rushed 40 times and scored 16 total touchdowns last season.
Fuller, Williams and quarterback Ryan Smith combined for more than 4,700 total yards last season. Fuller says his game is more polished this season, and with his two cohorts returning, it could mean he’s in line for an even bigger campaign in 2011.
“I want to catch at least 80 to 85 balls for at least a 1,000 yards,” he said.
“They’re going to use me in a lot of different ways. They’re going to hand it to me, throw it to me and move me around to get me the ball in all kinds of ways. My favorite position is receiver, but as long as I’m getting the ball, I’ll be happy.”
Much like Harvin, who’s never been able to focus solely on the finer points of playing receiver due to his other position responsibilities, Fuller knew his route running was a weakness. So, he spent much of the offseason working to improve his precision, which means fewer rounded off routes, better timing and, hopefully, greater production between he and Smith.
“I think he’s technically improved his route running and he’s technically improved his blocking,” Stein said. “Jody is a big kid, and early in his career, he just wanted to destroy people. Now his feet are working better for him. And his hands have improved over the course of the last four years.
“The big thing for me is seeing how people defend him, especially early. Sometimes opening up in the first couple of weeks, you see generic defenses. But with us opening against the No. 1 and No. 3 teams in the state of North Carolina, the media attention with be intensified. So, it may require us to use some late-season tactics to get Jody the ball rather than just throwing it to him.”