Dick Harmon: Determined Skyler Ridley has become a key part of BYU's talented receiving corps
“He was always known for getting open,” said Kevin. “He had a reputation for being quick.” Although Skyler ran a 4.7 40-yard dash in high school, which he’s improved on, it wasn’t clock speed that enabled Kevin's son to impress. It was game speed.
“I’d say I’m more like that game-speed player,” said Skyler. “Coming out of high school, people wanted to see that 40 time speed come down, but when I get on the field with that adrenaline it helps me to turn on the jets.”
Holliday pinpoints why Ridley’s game speed supersedes his timed speed.
“That comes from having a high football IQ,” said the coach. “If you don’t necessarily have all the physical attributes you can overcome that mentally by working and understanding the game. He knows how to find and work the seams and we’re working with him to get out of press coverage. He doesn’t drop passes; he’s always there; he works very hard, is always there in practice, and he’s a leader. Players look up to him and when there’s ever a question, he’s there to help teammates. You tell him one time and it’s fixed. That’s what you like as a coach.”
In this regard, he is like one of his heroes, current San Francisco 49ers receiver Austin Collie, whom he first met when Collie came off his LDS mission and Ridley was a walk-on. Collie never had blazing speed, but he got open. Defenders couldn’t cover him and he became BYU’s all-time leading receiver.
Some will call this sacrilege, but if you watch Ridley day in and day out, Ridley reminds you of Collie. Much of what he does technically, he learned personally from Collie.
In addition, Robert Anae’s offense enables a player like Ridley to take advantage of angles, attack pace and put pressure on secondaries. In playing alongside Hoffman, Apo and Mathews — more physically talented players who draw defensive attention — Ridley thrives.
“The schemes BYU coaches are putting in help us to take advantage of each individual player; it isn’t based around one particular person. It’s about being fast and taking advantage of weaknesses and we’ve been able to do that so far in camp,” said Ridley.
Ridley credits Collie for teaching him the tricks of the trade, like how to come out of the top of routes — things that work in getting a defender to turn his hips. “I’m not as much of a deep threat, but the things I do in the first 10 yards allow me to get open — whether I’m going on a deep route, curl route, comeback or whatever we run,” said Ridley. “Turning hips is something we are always trying to do and he taught me how to sell the deep route. Coach Holliday is always talking about feet, arms and head, but a lot of what Austin shared with me when I was a freshman is to turn hips, so when they turn one way, you go the other way. His routes were incredible.”
Unafraid of work
Murrieta Valley High School is located on the Santa Rosa plateau on the west end of the valley. It is an area that's produced current Cougars Tyler Beck and AJ Moore in addition to their senior teammate Ridley.
If you drive down Nighthawk Way or Washington Avenue you can see a monument to the work ethic of Skyler Ridley, who as his high school student body president used his Eagle Scout project to transform the face of the school’s baseball field.
When he was 17 years old, Ridley organized volunteers from all of Murrieta’s baseball programs (freshman, sophomore, varsity) and members of his LDS ward to raise the center-field fence by 30 feet. It included setting new footings to support a giant batting cage. He went to local businesses for donations of materials and money, and then organized the construction after obtaining permissions, permits and district approval. To this day, it is a key element of the school’s baseball program and community little league and Pony League programs.
Skyler Ridley is not afraid of work.
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