It’s rare for Kansas coach Mark Mangino to give praise to a freshman, especially this early in the season. So one can’t help but be intrigued by Bradley McDougald, the freshman receiver who has been showered with praise by the eight-year coach since practice started in August.
“I have not really had a true freshman come in and do what he could do since I’ve been here,” Mangino said about wide receiver McDougald.
Mangino scooped up the four-star recruit out of Dublin, Ohio after he had originally committed to Ohio State.
“He understands what we’re trying to do and how we’re trying to do it,” Mangino said. “He will be in the mix in the rotation and will play a significant amount for us this season.”
When the first depth chart came out last week, there was the surprising McDougald as a No. 2 behind Dezmon Briscoe, Kerry Meier and Johnathan Wilson.
Briscoe and Meier are the fourth-highest scoring wide receiver duo in the nation with 32 combined career touchdowns. Briscoe has 22 of those touchdowns, who is entering his junior season, and is one of two non-seniors to have 22 or more touchdowns (Dez Bryant, 25) and also had the third-most receiving yards in Division-I last season with 1,407 yards.
Keeping in mind that he was sitting behind two of the best wideouts in America, the 6-foot-2 McDougald had plenty of reasons to be intimidated.
“Once you get here and you sit down in the meeting room and you look around at the receivers, it is kind of intimidating because they know more than you do,” McDougald said. “But it is basically about getting on the practice field and making plays.”
Meier, who was McDougald’s “big brother” when he arrived on campus, mentoring him along the way, was impressed with his playmaking abilities.
“He has the ability to make everything look easy,” said senior receiver Meier, who was tied for sixth in receptions per game last season with 7.46. “He’s just a smooth athlete that takes it all in stride. A lot of times it looks like he’s not going very hard, but he has the ability to make plays and make it look easy.”
Not bad coming from one of the captains and possibly the smoothest player for the Jayhawks, who look to contend for their first Big 12 North title.
“We thought he would be pretty good, but then you hear the kids talk around the building and the strength coaches talk and you realize he has the ability to be pretty good,” said Mangino. “As soon as we got him on the field, just a few days into practice, we realized he was a talented young guy.”
Mangino has also indicated that McDougald will see time on special teams.
McDougald has also made an impression on senior captain halfback Jake Sharp.
“He’s really stepped up,” said Sharp. “Mentally, he’s where he needs to be for a freshman. It’s usually the mental aspect that will separate freshmen from other freshmen to be able to play early. He’s really showcased some maturity in that aspect.”