Connecticut cornerback Darius Butler might not have realized it, but he paid Doug Beaumont one of the highest possible compliments when asked about the Louisville receiver this week.
|Mark Zerof/US PRESSWIRE|
|Doug Beaumont has stepped up for Louisville in the early part of the 2008 season.|
"He reminds me of the way they used Harry Douglas last year," Butler said. "He goes up and catches the ball."
Douglas, now with the Atlanta Falcons, is still one of the most revered players in recent Cardinals history because he never took a snap off during practice or games. He was a fierce competitor who never minded going over the middle and taking a big hit despite standing just about 5-foot-11 and weighing a smidge over 180 pounds.
"When Harry was here, I just tried to watch him all the time," said Beaumont, who's even smaller at 5-9, 175.
And now more quickly than most people would have guessed, the sophomore is doing a pretty fair imitation of the former Louisville star. Beaumont leads the Big East and is sixth in the nation in receptions, with 23 in three games. He caught nine balls for 119 yards last week versus Kansas State and has become quarterback Hunter Cantwell's go-to guy.
That's pretty good when you consider that Beaumont hadn't caught a single college pass before this season. He appeared in all 12 games last year but touched the ball only once, losing two yards on an end around.
He figured his production would increase this season. But when No. 1 receiver Scott Long broke his foot in August and junior Trent Guy got shot in July, Beaumont had to assume a lot more responsibility.
"My goal was to be a role player this year," he said. "I didn't expect to be a big-time receiver. I thought I'd be like third or fourth on the depth chart. But when both those guys went down, I knew I had to step up."
Head coach Steve Kragthorpe, who personally handles the receivers, said he never had much doubt that Beaumont could handle a bigger load.
"He's one of the hardest-working guys on the team, he pays attention to detail and he's extremely coachable," Kragthorpe said. "I think his role publicly expanded, but internally we knew he would have a nice role because of the way he played in spring practice."
Beaumont isn't the only Louisville receiver to pick up the slack. Redshirt freshman Josh Chichester has 10 catches and a touchdown. The 6-foot-8 Chichester has made some spectacular grabs but has also dropped some easy throws, like the two sure touchdowns he bobbled against Kansas State.
"Every day, I'm working on getting better with my hands," he said. "Coach says to look the ball all the way in, and that's what I'm focusing on now. I think overall as a receiving group, we're doing pretty well."
The early injuries could be a blessing in disguise. Guy is getting close to full strength, and Long hopes to return as soon as Friday's game against Connecticut, although he didn't practice with the team on Tuesday. Their absence has allowed the youngsters to grow, and when they get back, the Cardinals' receiving corps could become a formidable group.
Beaumont, a former Mr. Kentucky Football, is already developing into a star.
"He always seems to be open," Cantwell said. "He plays so much bigger than what he is."
Beaumont said he isn't afraid to go over the middle and take on a linebacker who might weigh 50 pounds more.
"I know I'm going to take shots," he said. "But in the end, I'll get a first down or do whatever I need to do get those extra couple of yards."
Sounds a lot like what Harry Douglas used to do.