Updated: September 8, 2009 at 12:00 am
After earning consensus first-team All-Big Ten honors on the football field in 2008, Minnesota receiver Eric Decker spent last spring playing in the outfield for the Gophers’ baseball team and hit .319 with four homers.
Air Force secondary coach Charlton Warren referenced a third sport, however, when talking about the senior, who broke his own single-season school record for receptions in 2008 with 84.
“He has a great basketball body,” Warren said of the 6-foot-3, 220-pounder who was an all-state performer in basketball, football and baseball at Rocori High School in Cold Spring, Minn. “A lot of his (receptions) are when he boxes guys out with his body.”
Decker’s size will provide a tall task for the Falcons’ secondary Saturday. Starting cornerbacks Anthony Wright and P.J. Adeji-Paul are 5-10 and 6-0. Reggie Rembert, who as of Tuesday had not been cleared to play because of a suspension, is 5-8.
Air Force can make up for the size disparity, coach Troy Calhoun said, by playing with good technique, being physical and knowing where your help is — just like, he said, in basketball.
“You’ve got to know when there are times you can be top shoulder and play denial,” Calhoun said. “Other times, you may have to be low shoulder because your help’s on a different part of the court.”
If the Falcons are to ruin the Gophers’ inaugural game at their new stadium, the secondary will have to make sure Decker doesn’t get loose for too many alley-oops. He had nine catches for 183 yards in last Saturday’s victory over Syracuse.
“It brings confidence (having Decker), especially in crucial situations when you need someone to make a play,” Minnesota junior quarterback Adam Weber said. “He thrives on those situations.”