Criner's play speaks louder than combine numbers
Colin Darland / Daily Wildcat
Juron Criner isn’t known for talking much. His physicality and body control do all the talking for him.
“Juron was always a pretty quiet guy,” said former UA receivers coach Dave Nichol, who now holds the same position at East Carolina. “He wasn’t always really vocal, he let his play do the talking which was good.”
In his stellar four-year career at the UA, the Las Vegas native caught an all-time UA-best 32 touchdowns and was fourth-best all-time in receptions and receiving yards with 209 and 2,859 yards. His junior season, when he had 82 catches for 1,233 yards and 11 touchdowns was one of the best in Wildcats history. If not for an appendectomy that cost Criner the first two games of 2011, he might’ve topped those totals in his senior year.
While Criner isn’t known for talking about himself to the press, his former teammates and coaches had nothing but good things to say about the 6-foot-2, 224-pound receiver.
“Playing along Juron, it was a lot of fun,” former UA receiver Gino Crump said. “It was a lot of fun to watch him flourish as a player and see him have the kind of career that he did.”
Crump rarely got playing time until his senior season, grabbing 65 of his 69 career catches in 2011. But, wide receiver David Douglas played alongside Criner for four years, and said that it was “awesome” to see Criner play ball.
“I became real close with Juron when we were freshmen, and just to see him really just come in and help the program was good,” said Douglas. “Juron is a good buddy of mine and I’m really happy for him. He’s got a heck of career in front of him.”
Nichol said that Criner was the best receiver he coached at the UA, even better than the likes of NFL receiver Mike Thomas and Terrell Turner. Nichol went on to say that Criner was one of the hardest working players he’s coached.
“He was pretty coachable from a standpoint of, you can tell him something like, ‘Hey think about releasing this way.’ He could go do it, and that’s really not easy to do,” Nichol said. “A lot of guys can understand what you’re trying to say but to be able to actually go do it is a whole other thing. If I kind of gave him an idea or something he was able to put it into practice pretty good.”
In terms of raw ability, Criner’s speed came into question after he ran just a 4.68 at the NFL Scouting Combine. He improved on that a bit with a 4.61 unofficial recorded time at the UA’s NFL Pro Day, but either way, speed has never been Criner’s greatest attribute.
At the Pro Day, two scouts in the crowd could be overheard discussing Criner’s amazing body control, even citing a specific touchdown catch he had against UCLA.
“You got to just learn how to control your body,” Criner said. “As a receiver, you got to run your routes at your exact depth and catch the ball when it comes to you.”
Both Nichol and former UA quarterbacks coach Frank Scelfo cited Criner’s ball skills as his best attribute.
“I guess the word with him was always dynamic,” Nichol said. “He was a big, physical guy with amazing ball skills but he could play like he was 5’11, and I mean that in a good way.
“He gets in and out of cuts and he could play anywhere on the field and that’s hard to do for a guy his size, that’s usually hard for guys to do. He’s really a special player from a talent standpoint and a toughness standpoint.”
As for Criner’s placement in this weekend’s seven-round NFL Draft, Scelfo said he thinks Criner will be the “fourth or fifth receiver taken”, while Nichol believes Criner will probably be drafted somewhere in the third round. Even if he’s not drafted in the first round, Nichol believes Criner will produce like a first round pick.
“I know he’ll end up being a first-round type of player,” Nichol said. “I just think he’s that physically gifted and if he’s able to stay relatively healthy — he’s always been kind of nicked up every now and again with us — I think the sky’s the limit.”
Position: Wide receiver
Hometown: Las Vegas
Stats: (2009) 45 receptions, 582 yards, 9 touchdowns; (2010) 82 receptions, 1,233 yards, 11 touchdowns; (2011) 75 receptions, 956 yards, 11 touchdowns
Achievements: First team All-Pac-10 and second team SI.com All-America (2010), Honorable mention all Pac-10 (2011), UA career record holder with 32 touchdown catches, receptions in final 28 games as a Wildcat, 11 career 100-yard games, Tied single season school record with 11 touchdowns in 2010 and 2011
Combine numbers: 4.68 40-yard dash (4.61 at Pro Day), 17 bench press reps, 38 inch vertical, largest hands at 10.5 inches
They said it: “Juron’s got that big body. Big receiver type guy. He’s going to be really good.” — former UA running back Keola Antolin
What they’re saying: Seventh-best receiver by NFL.com’s Gil Brandt and 62nd overall ranked prospect; Ninth-best receiver by CBSsports.com, 72nd overall ranked prospect and projected round 2-3.