HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - One hundred and ten receptions in one season essentially eliminates the element of surprise.
Marshall wide receiver Tommy Shuler knows he's the target of every team the Thundering Herd football team faces in 2013. If the number of catches didn't do it, the spot on the 2012 all-Conference USA first team did. So the junior understands treading water won't cut it, not when the eyes of all those defensive coordinators are upon him. He needs to be faster, stronger, better.
Ask coaches and teammates on the field with him this spring, and they'll tell you he's working hard toward doing just that.
He's been working especially hard on the "faster" part. Shuler said that, every day, he hops on the treadmill for an hour with new wide receivers coach Mike Furrey by his side. A lot of people look at 60 minutes of running as a chore. But Shuler enjoys it.
He'll crack jokes with Furrey as they run and the hour flies by. He sees the results on the field - the ability to break away from defenders, to weave through heavy traffic toward the end zone - and knows the work is worth it.
"I feel like I'm getting faster," Shuler said. "I feel like I'm getting stronger. I feel like I'm moving in and out of my breaks more this year. I feel great coming into this spring."
Shuler had reason to feel great. He went from little-used option as a freshman, catching 14 passes for 122 yards in 10 games, to the top target in the Football Bowl Subdivision. His 9.17 catches per game was the best average in the FBS. He broke Mike Barber's 25-year old school record for receptions in a season and shattered the record for catches in a game, snagging 19 against Purdue. The old record of 15, shared by three former Herd receivers, was last reached in 2004.
Shuler finished 2012 with 1,138 yards, finishing just outside the top 10 all-time single season performances, and six touchdowns. Still, he wasn't completely satisfied. As good as that season was, he and the Herd left goals on the table.
"It had me feeling good and bad," Shuler said. "It was 50-50. I wanted to go to a bowl game. So I told myself I'd work extra hard, more than I did last spring."