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November 12, 2013

Carroo's big season paying off for Rutgers

Eight games into the Rutgers season and sophomore wide receiver Leonte Carroo has made one definitive statement after the next on the field. He came up with huge catches in numerous games and without him in the lineup, it's conceivable Rutgers' three close wins could have been losses.

Without Carroo, it's conceivable that Rutgers loses to SMU, Arkansas and Temple. Amazingly, Carroo has yet to start a single game this season even though he is ninth in the nation with nine touchdown catches.

Coincidentally, all eight players ahead of him in that category have played at least one more game.

Carroo's success comes after a freshman year in which he was forced to sit in favor of some older players and was relegated to special teams duties. But this year's success comes as no surprise to him.

"I'm not surprised at all. Last year I could have done a lot of things at receiver to help this team," Carroo said. "Now that I am out there playing, I am just having fun. ..It's the extra work that I put in behind practice and meetings and watching films is why I have been so successful this year."

Carroo's performance this season has been nothing short of spectacular, but don't tell him that.

"Most of the time, I am really upset with myself because there is a lot more I left out on the field that I could have done better, whether that is route running or different things," Carroo said. "I do tend to get mad at myself. There are things every receiver can do better. I see myself on film and say 'I could have done that better.' There are some nice plays but most of the time I am upset."

Catching the football has been Carroo's forte dating back to spring practice. He has zero drops this season and no more than a few drops on the practice field over this past summer and spring.

He remembers those drops vividly.

"There were a couple in practice. I take a lot of pride in that," Carroo said. "I really get upset when I drop a ball. I try my hardest just to focus on the catch and that is the most important thing."

Carroo put in plenty of work this offseason in preparation for his increased role. Carroo and his fellow receivers would get right up on the jug machine and catch passes at high speeds while only inches away.

"We would shoot the balls out 60 miles per hour out of the jugs," Carroo explained. "We were right up on the machine. It hurts really bad but it helps out a lot. You have to put your hands in the right position. It is something coach [P.J.] Fleck brought to Rutgers. The first ten tries, I kept moving away and the ball kept shooting out."

Carroo's intense offseason preparation started long before he ever made it to Rutgers. It really kicked into high gear at Don Bosco High School following a state championship victory in 2010.

"My junior year, I had a pretty bad game in the state championship. Gary [Nova] was my quarterback and I think I left four touchdowns out on the field," Carroo said. "Ever since that game, I said to myself 'You will never have a game like this again.' I needed to work on my hands a lot and I have been doing a lot of things since then."

Since that time, Carroo started going to work every night, dipping his hands in buckets of rice doing grip work. He continued catching footballs on a daily basis and also noticed his confidence began to rise.

"I noticed that in that championship game as a junior, I probably wasn't confident. Now, catching every day and doing all the little things, I have more confidence."

In addition to all that work and confidence, Caroo also stressed the importance of being focused as a wide receiver.

"It really factors in a lot. You really have to focus as a receiver. When the ball is in the air, you can't worry about defenders or the crowd or anybody around you. You just have to attack the ball."

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