The Right Slot: Rhoades has started showing up in an unusual position
Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor

Sept. 20, 2006 - Tyler Rhoades showed up in an unusual place on Friday - and a not-so-unusual place as well.

Rhoades, the team's leading returning receiver from last year, made his debut in the slot position against Denison. Last season and the first two games of this year, he had been an outside receiver.

Putting him in the slot certainly worked well, as he snagged seven passes for 185 yards, both were team-highs, and he ended up twice in a familiar place for him - the end zone.

The move to the slot enabled offensive coordinator Jeff Riordan to use Rhoades in a different manner than the first two games, when he caught a combined eight passes for just 74 yards. On Friday, his two touchdown passes covered 69 and 56 yards.

"Coaches told me they're probably going to keep me there after the game I had," Rhoades said of the slot position. "I have a lot more routes there. My routes change, and it's not just one set route that would change - it would be different kinds of routes. It helps me get open a lot more."

Rhoades' physical assets help as well. The team's biggest receiver at 6-1, 190 pounds, he still runs a sub-4.6 in the 40-yard dash. That showed up in his two TDs, especially the second one when he literally out-ran the Denison defense after catching a sideline pass near midfield and turning it up the visitors' sideline.

Coach Riordan said his performance was indicative of the work he put in over the summer.

"Tyler's one of our senior receivers and a leader, and he does things right," Riordan said. "He worked hard this summer and had some great workouts.

"He went to a lot of camps, and it surprised me that he was running a 4.6 at camps. That's really got him noticed - being a big-size kid who moves like he does has made him into a college prospect."

Rhoades got some attention last year as a junior after catching 27 passes for 354 yards and four touchdowns on his way to being named Honorable Mention All-District. He was also an All-District first baseman on the district championship Wildcat baseball team. He ran track as an underclassman, but didn't last spring to concentrate on baseball.

Understandably, he said his life pretty much revolves around sports.

"I like being around a bunch of guys serving one purpose," Rhoades said. "There's nothing like it, and it teaches you a lot about life, too."

What the Wildcat opponents are learning is that Rhoades is one of the players their defenses must respect. That was driven home on Friday.

"With a kid like Tyler, you've got to move him around because he's going to be one of the key guys that defenses are adjusting to," Riordan said. "The more we move him around, the better chance we have of getting him open. It's a big deal to get him open and get him the ball, because he can make plays with the ball in his hands.

"He's solid - that's the best I can put it - he's solid," Riordan continued. "When his number's called, I'm confident he's going to make the play. He's one of those guys that I feel real confident in."

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