During his career at Kent State, new Pittsburgh Steelers running back/wide receiver Dri Archer showed how dangerous he was a kick returner. So why did the 5-8, speed burner only return six punts during his four years there and zero in 2013? On Wednesday, Kent State’s offensive coordinator Brian Rock finally set the record straight about Archer and his punt returning abilities during an interview on The David Todd Show.
“We had him all geared up to be our punt returner and in the very first series of the first game he got a high ankle sprain,” said Rock. “So he dealt with that for a long, long time over the course of the season and in the meantime, while he was out, we developed another guy that we said, ‘Ok, we’re just going to field the ball and make sure that we do that and not try to put him in jeopardy’ and so he stuck pretty much with returning kickoffs. But he’s a natural punt catcher. He doesn’t have any problems fielding the ball and I think in the NFL that’ll be a huge piece of his puzzle.”
Rock’s explanation certainly helps clear things up as far as Archer’s punt return abilities go. It’s good to hear that he really has a legitimate chance to handle both duties this season and that will result in less wear and tear on wide receiver Antonio Brown as well.
In addition to making a name for himself as a kick returner at Kent State, Archer also carried the football 325 times for 2,342 yards and 24 touchdowns over a four-year span. Rock believes that even though his former star player will be considered very undersized at the NFL level as a running back, that his skills as a ball career are very underrated.
“He’s really fast and that’s what everybody talks about, but I’m not convinced that’s his greatest quality,” said Rock. “He has unbelievable vision. He can really see things and he has a great change of direction, so he rarely takes a direct hit and I think that’s one of the things that really helped him over the long run. And I’ve always said, he’s not a fast guy that plays football, he’s a football player that plays fast.”
So how’s Archer in pass protection?
“He’ll come in and cut them down with the best of them,” said Rock. “He’ll take them on up top. He’s not a coward, that’s for dang sure.”
Finally, despite being so successful at the college level, Rock doesn’t believe that his former player has let any of that go to his head. In fact, he expects him to fit right in with the Steelers both on and off the field.
“He’s an outstanding young man. Pittsburgh will love what he brings to the table off the field as far as character and work ethic and those kinds of things. He’s just a pleasure to be around. He’s not a real flamboyant personality-wise, but he’s a real charismatic guy that attracts other people to follow.”
Hopefully most of Archer’s followers will be defenders chasing him from behind.