DeKALB – Sometimes, it’s all pointless. The perfect defense, double coverage, sound technique – sometimes a good receiver makes it all look silly.
A good receiver makes his plays. Northern Illinois cornerbacks coach Richard McNutt said there usually is nothing a defensive back can do to prevent it.
“But the most important thing is to challenge him every snap,” McNutt said. “You can’t always take him out, but you can’t let a play go where the guy just runs down the field free to catch the ball. You have to compete and challenge him every snap.”
Northern Illinois isn’t trying to stop Ohio’s best offensive weapon, senior receiver LaVon Brazill, when the Huskies play the Bobcats at 6 p.m. Friday in the Mid-American Conference Championship game at Ford Field in Detroit. Just like the Huskies didn’t plan to stop Wisconsin’s Nick Toon or Western Michigan’s Jordan White or Toledo’s Eric Page.
The goal is to contain, to make sure blown coverages don’t make things too easy. Because if that happens, good receivers can destroy defenses by themselves.
And Brazill is no different.
“He is a good receiver,” said McNutt, a former Ohio State cornerback who covered Michigan’s Braylon Edwards, Michigan State’s Charles Rodgers and Wisconsin’s Lee Evans, among others. “He will make plays when called upon. Just like all great players, when they get a chance to make plays, they will.”
The thing that sets Brazill apart is his knack for the spectacular, an ability to make highlight grabs as well as routine catches. The senior is on pace to become the first Ohio player ever to surpass 1,000 receiving yards in a season. He isn’t among the MAC’s leaders in receptions or yards. But with 10 touchdown catches, he has more touchdowns per catch.
Brazill fits the mold of a big-play receiver. NFL scouts have checked in on him throughout the season. Some of his catches have appeared on ESPN highlight packages.
NIU junior cornerback Rashaan Melvin said he’s looking forward to the challenge.
“Definitely,” Melvin said. “He’s a senior. He’s a leader. He’s a guy NFL scouts are looking at as far as when the season is over with. So I’ve just got to take it as a challenge to go out there and compete, get our hands up and knock balls down.”
In 2009, the last time NIU played Ohio, Brazill’s high touchdown-per-reception ratio was on full display. He finished with just five catches for 55 yards, but two were touchdowns. Both were more than 25 yards. And he had a third score on a 91-yard punt return for touchdown.
NIU safety Tommy Davis remembers Brazill’s speed from that game. Davis calls him a playmaker, perhaps the best deep threat the Huskies defense has played this season. But Brazill isn’t the first good receiver he’s defended this season.
“A lot of the schemes we’ve put in, we’ve seen those schemes before,” Davis said. “It won’t be new to guys. Guys will be ready to play in those spots, and they’ll be used to trying to slow down a certain guy.”