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Published: Tuesday, 4/6/2010

Page preparing to be bigger contributor

BY ZACH SILKA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

It's a scary thought for opposing head coaches, but plan on seeing a lot more of Eric Page this season.

Fresh off a record-breaking freshman season, the University of Toledo wide receiver has taken over the kick and punt returning duties on a full-time basis in addition to his normal workload on offense.

Page proved he's more than capable of contributing on special teams last year when he became the Rockets' primary kick and punt returner in the final three games of the season. He wound up leading the team in punt return average (13.4) and kickoff return average (27.0).

"Toward the end of last year I played a little bit on the kick return and punt return teams, and this year I'm working a little bit more on that with the first team," Page said yesterday at the Glass Bowl following the conclusion of the Rockets' 10th of 15 spring practices.

"I like it a lot more playing special teams. I feel more into the game and like I'm contributing to the team more. I'm not off just sitting on the sideline, kind of getting tight and not really paying attention to the game."

Page led all freshmen in the nation in 2009 with 82 receptions and 1,159 receiving yards. He also shattered Steve Odom's UT freshman record of 62 catches and 838 receiving yards set in 2003.

Yet Page still has individual goals for the spring to better himself in preparation for next season.

"I'm trying to improve on my route-running and just have more knowledge for the game, like reading coverages better," Page said. "I thought I was playing at a pretty high level last year, but there's always room for improvement and trying to be a better receiver since it's just my first year."

With almost a full year of college football now under his belt, it's easy to think Page could actually see a jump in his performance.

"It's different now because I know I can play," Page said. "I'm not kind of nervous about going out there and playing. I know I can go out there and perform. There's a comfort level now."

Page's teammates have noticed a different side to him as well this spring.

"You can tell he's much more comfortable out there on the field," senior center Kevin Kowalski said. "He continues to make plays. It's hard to expect much more than last year, but he's doing a really good job for us right now."

With that comfort and experience now comes greater responsibility and expectations.

UT coach Tim Beckman would like to see improvement from the Springfield graduate in one key area.

"I think the biggest thing we're asking Eric to be is a leader," Beckman said. "To teach some of the guys who haven't played that position, like the Julian Bellingers and the Ed Williams and people like that. We're looking forward to seeing him do some great things."

FIRST SCRIMMAGE: UT held its first scrimmage of the spring Friday at the Glass Bowl.

The "Rocket Raisers" - the team's top performers as deemed by the coaching staff - from the workout, which was closed to the media and the general public, were junior running back Adonis Thomas on offense, senior defensive end Douglas Westbrook on defense, and junior kicker Ryan Casano on special teams.

"It went well," Beckman said. "We got in 128 plays, so there's a lot to evaluate and a lot to look at. But we have some young guys getting better."

SPRING GAME: UT's spring game will take place Friday, April 16, at 7 p.m. at the Glass Bowl.

All former players are invited to a picnic at 4 p.m., and high school recruits and their families can tour the Fetterman Training Center at 5:30 p.m. Admission and parking are free.

Contact Zach Silka at:

zsilka@theblade.com

or 419-724-6084.



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