All of the college recruiters that entered Scioto High school pictured an athlete like Bradley McDougald fitting into their system somewhere. The opinions changed with the each school. Most everybody agreed that McDougald would likely be a running back or a safety.
But not Kansas offensive coordinator Ed Warinner.
McDougald had an impressive showing at Ohio State's summer camp before his senior season. The Buckeyes offered him a scholarship along with several other programs and McDougald did what many Ohio prospects would do….he committed to Ohio State. However, during his senior season McDougald describes what he and Ohio State had as a "mutual agreement" that he would open back up his recruiting.
That's when Warinner entered the picture. While college recruiters flocked back into Scioto High to make their pitch to McDougald the words safety and running back were thrown around once again. Warinner had a different idea.
"So many people saw different things in Bradley and a lot of schools really liked him as a safety," said Scioto head coach Karl Johnson. "It really depended on their needs. Bradley really started to like the idea of playing wide receiver in a system under someone like coach Warinner. We were pushing him as a safety or running back, but he had the talent to play wide receiver."
Warinner had two things going for him. The year before he recruited and signed Josh Richardson from Scioto, who was good friends with McDougald. Warinner was also the only offensive coordinator that was the lead recruiter.
"When coach Warinner comes in and tells a kid where he sees him in the offense that means a lot," Johnson said. "Because he is the offensive coordinator and you can believe him. He makes the decision on offense and that's something Bradley realized."
When Rivals.com released their national rankings McDougald was listed as the nation's 11th best safety prospect and the third best in the state of talent-rich Ohio. The call to move him over to wide receiver has paid off for the Jayhawks and his potential right now is untapped.
"He can catch and run in open space so you knew he had the skills to be an offensive player," Warinner said. "He played on the defensive side of the ball and people liked his size. Finding big safeties is what people want now on defense. They want safeties over 6-foot and over 210 and he can easily be that. He can get a lot better as receiver."
With all of his focus as a receiver McDougald admitted he is getting better every week. He is still learning after making the transition over to the offensive side full-time.
"Going from the first game to the third game I've taken strides in areas," McDougald said. "I've had some mistakes but my mistakes have been less over the last three games. The last game (Duke) I graded out the highest so far when we came back and watched film. Being out there play after play and getting all these reps is giving me more confidence out there."
McDougald arrived in Lawrence in June and started to pick up things right away. Stories were leaking in the summer that this kid from Ohio was really turning heads in voluntary workouts. He said going through seven-on-seven and learning from Kerry Meier got him off to a quick start.
"Over the summer we did seven-on-seven as part of our summer workouts," he said. "But I came in and tried to learn as much from Kerry and the other inside receivers as I could. When I went into fall workouts I think all of that work showed up then."
Kansas wide receivers coach David Beaty has helped mold McDougald into a starter. When the offense uses a four-wide look McDougald is listed on the first team. The wide receiver position was seen as the strength of the Jayhawks team going into the season. A true freshman like McDougald wasn't expected to come in and have an impact like he has. Outside of the coaching he gets from Beaty he also gets a little extra help from his teammates.
"He learns every day from Kerry just watching him and the detail Kerry puts into the receiver position," Warinner said. "And he also learns from Briscoe and Wilson and all of those guys. I think he's in the right environment where he can learn from some really good receivers. Todd (Reesing) works with him too. He talks with him about leverage, reading coverages, and getting in little windows so he can throw him the ball."
Johnson said he speaks with McDougald frequently and they also trade text messages. Johnson describes McDougald as "extremely happy since he arrived." McDougald continues to learn the wide receiver position and that could be bad news for opposing defenses in the next four years.
"The sky is the limit because his talent level is so high and he's a smart guy," Warinner said.