Young receiver earns big role in offense

Elliott Pratt

Coach Bobby Petrino has made a couple of changes to the starting line-up Saturday based on the results of practice throughout the week, and the changes resulted in a breakout performance from freshman wide receiver Nicholas Norris.

The coach said the players who give the best efforts in practice will start the game on Saturdays.

Norris is one of those players that earned a spot on the field during the first snap and may have sealed a permanent place in the starting line-up.

The freshman from Miami leads the team with three touchdowns and 129 yards on 10 catches this season.

Norris’ coming-out party occurred Saturday at South Alabama when he caught seven passes for 95 yards and two scores, making him the first WKU wide receiver since Jake Gaebler in 2009 to catch multiple touchdowns in one game.

Petrino is quite pleased with the early performance of Norris — the coach said he has done well considering how much responsibility he’s been given.

“I’ve been really happy. We’ve put a lot on him,” Petrino said. “He’s a guy that came in and we kind of threw him in the fire and said ‘hey, here you go’. He’s made a lot of good plays for us, made a lot of big plays for us. He’s a guy that we feel can really catch the ball and run after the catch.”

When Norris arrived at WKU from Booker T. Washington High School in Miami, he didn’t know he would play such an important role in the offense. Also a member of the track and field squad for the Tornados, Norris said paying attention as a newcomer has helped earn the job he has in the offensive line up.

“Just staying humble and being ready any time my number is called,” Norris said about being ready to play. “Coming from high school I always was in, so I had to take a step back coming off the bench at first, then practicing hard to get a starting position.”

Norris’s role in the offense has increased more through each game. He credits the early chemistry he has built with the quarterbacks to his young success.

“It’s been a great chemistry,” Norris said. “I’m getting a different feel for every quarterback in practice everyday. Whoever they can throw it at any time in the game, I just know I have a great relationship at any time.”

Petrino likes the direction his young receiver is headed, saying Norris is going to be an exciting player for WKU for years to come.

“He’s done a good job for us, and he’s just going to continue to get better,” Petrino said. “He’s more comfortable with the offense now. His routes are better than they were early in the year, and he’s an exciting guy for what’s going to come.”