Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 12, 2016

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 50 of 55 SEPT. 12, 2016 51 IRISH IN THE PROS BY MATT JONES W ill Fuller was a nightmare for de‑ fensive coordinators during his college days. In his brief pro career, the former Notre Dame wideout is presenting the same problems to NFL defenses. In his third preseason game with the Houston Texas — which selected him with the 21st overall pick in this year's draft — Fuller had three catches for 67 yards during a 34‑24 win over the Arizona Cardinals. Fuller caught a touchdown from quarterback Brock Osweiler in the win, beating Cardinals corner Justin Bethel in coverage for a 26‑yard score. In the previous game, a 16‑9 win over the New Orleans Saints, Fuller had 73 yards and a touchdown, mak‑ ing Osweiler a believer in the 6‑1, 172‑pound receiver. "Will's a very special football player," Osweiler told the Texans' website. "What people really need to know about him — obviously ev‑ erybody knows about his speed, they saw him all last season, they saw him at the combine — but it's his work ethic. That's what really makes him special. "He comes in every single day, he works extremely hard, studies hard and practices hard. We expect big things out of Will this season." analyst Bucky Brooks graded Fuller as an "A" for his per‑ formance against the Cardinals. "The Texans' passing game is show‑ ing explosive potential, with Fuller and fellow rookie Braxton Miller carv‑ ing out roles as complementary play‑ makers opposite Pro Bowl receiver DeAndre Hopkins," Brooks said on the site. "Fuller in particular has started to deliver splash plays as a vertical threat on the outside. He finished Sunday against the Cardinals with three receptions for 67 yards, in‑ cluding a pair of home runs [a 35‑yard catch and a 26‑yard touchdown] on fade routes along the boundary. "Fuller 's speed and burst were considered his biggest strengths as a prospect, but concerns about his hands threatened his draft status. After coming up with big plays in back‑to‑back games on outstanding over‑the‑shoulder grabs, the first‑ rounder's ball skills aren't a question mark heading into the season." Though Fuller 's hands were ex‑ plored entering the draft — accord‑ ing to Pro Football Focus, Fuller dropped 10 of 72 catchable passes in 2015 for a 13.9 percent drop rate, which ranked 88th of 96 draft‑eligi‑ ble qualifiers at wide receiver — he has thrived in Texans head coach Bill O'Brien's aerial attack. He did have one crucial drop against the Cardinals, failing to bring in a potential 84‑yard touchdown. O'Brien, though, said Fuller is ca‑ pable of overcoming those shortfalls. "He made some good catches," O'Brien told reporters. "On the touch‑ down, I believe it was a double move and a nice throw. He was able to keep his feet inbounds. He's done that a lot. "The [drop] was a special seam route that was an over‑the‑shoulder‑ type catch. Tough catch. Got to make that catch, and I'm sure he'll work hard to improve on it this week." Fuller finished the preseason with eight receptions for 144 yards and two scores. A.J. POLLOCK COMES BACK STRONG A broken elbow in spring training derailed A.J. Pollock's plans for back‑ to‑back All‑Star Game appearances, but the Arizona Diamondbacks cen‑ ter fielder has been impressive since returning from the disabled list. In his third game back from injury, the 2015 All‑Star went 3 for 5 and stole two bases, showing no signs of the injury that held him out for the majority of the season. "It's weird. I never really think about hits but when you have no hits, it's nice to get that first one," said Pollock, who batted .315 with 192 hits, 20 home runs and 39 steals in 2015. "I still feel like the game's a little fast, but it's natural. I'm sure it will get better." Through four games played, he was hitting .300 (6 for 20) with three runs scored, one RBI and four steals. LAKERS SIGN ZACH AUGUSTE Despite going undrafted, former Notre Dame forward Zach Auguste has found a home in the NBA. The Los Angeles Lakers signed the 23‑year‑old in August, adding him to a roster that includes young stars D'Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram and Larry Nance Jr. The 6‑10, 243‑pound Auguste wasn't Notre Dame's primary scorer in 2015‑16. He was a third‑team All‑ ACC selection and an effective re‑ bounder, leading the conference in boards (10.7 per game), while rank‑ ing 10th in the nation in total re‑ bounds (386). In four summer league contests with the Lakers, Auguste averaged 5.2 points and 4.0 rebounds in 15.8 minutes per game. He tallied nine points and four rebounds in an 85‑65 win over New Orleans July 8, then posted eight points, seven boards and two steals in a 70‑69 victory over Philadelphia July 9. ✦ Will Fuller Making An Early Impact For Texans Fuller notched touchdown receptions in back-to- back games for the Houston Texans and finished the preseason with eight catches for 144 yards. PHOTO COURTESY HOUSTON TEXANS "HE COMES IN EVERY SINGLE DAY, HE WORKS EXTREMELY HARD, STUD- IES HARD AND PRACTICES HARD. WE EXPECT BIG THINGS OUT OF WILL THIS SEASON." TEXANS QUARTERBACK BROCK OSWEILER ON FULLER

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