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How 'hot sauce' made Giants' Shane Vereen a pass-catching threat

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EAST RUTHERFORD — Larry Muir watched other teams do ball drills with their receivers, and he kept seeing a common thread: The coaches, likely hampered by less-than-strong arms, would gingerly lob their throws.

Muir, the head coach at Valencia High, located just north of Los Angeles in Santa Clarita, Calif., did not see the point of floating easy throws to his pass catchers in drills. How would that make them better?

So he designed his own ball drill. He would get his receivers and running backs together early in the week. One-by-one, each player would run about five yards or so, whip their head back around as quick as they could, and try to snag the fastball Muir had fired at them from close proximity.

"I would try to hit them right in their facemask," Muir said. "The ball was coming in hot."

The players dubbed the drill "Tapatio" in honor of the hot sauce brand. They would joke with Muir about their preferences with his throws - mild, medium or hot. And there was one guy who always wanted it hot, no matter what.

"We would just run routes. Five close-as-hell routes, quick turnarounds," Giants running back Shane Vereen, Valencia Class of 2007, recalled. "And he would throw it as hard as he could, straight at our face. And we just had to catch it. For three years, that's what I was doing."

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As you probably know by now, Vereen excels at catching passes out of the backfield. The skill has almost become a addendum to his last name. He's Shane Vereen, the guy who catches passes out of the backfield. He's the guy who hauled in 11 catches from Tom Brady and helped the Patriots win the Super Bowl this past February; the guy who the 49ers could not stop on the Giants' game-winning drive a week ago Sunday, leading coach Tom Coughlin to declare him "amazing."

But Vereen's ability to play a major role in the passing game is not an accident, or a strategic wrinkle they stumbled upon in New England, and the Giants have since followed up on. It all began at Valencia.

"Shane, because he was super competitive, he wanted hot sauce," Muir said. "He wanted it hot. So with him, I would just try to drill him, and throw the ball as hard as I could."

Catching the ball was a necessity for Vereen in high school. Valencia spread the field out, using four wide receivers on most plays. Vereen would line up as the running back, but he did not do much of that.

"We only had six running plays," Vereen said. "So naturally, I was catching the ball a lot."

Vereen was Valencia's leading rusher. He was also the Vikings' leading receiver, helping Valencia quarterback Michael Herrick set several California state passing records (since broken) in the process.

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"He was a big part of the passing game," Muir said. "He had to read coverages, he had to adjust his routes. He was like another receiver."

Vereen continued to be a weapon in the passing game when he left Valencia and played his college ball at the University of California-Berkeley, where coach Jeff Tedford ran an offense similar to Muir's. Vereen's ability to catch passes out of the backfield was well-known by the time the Patriots drafted him with a second-round pick in 2011, and he has continued to demonstrate that ability with the Giants, as well as shown flashes in the running game.

"We're going to continue to challenge Shane to be a complete back, complete player, for us," Giants offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo said. "He can do a lot of different things, wear a lot of different hats. He gets the game, he has some football smarts there. ... He has a feel for things in the pass game, we all know that, we all see that on film."

A feel that was developed staring down footballs thrown as hard, and hot, as his coach could physically manage for three years.

"He's a running back with wide receiver hands," Muir said. "And with a quarterback's mind."







































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did he even get 4 targets last game? i remember being frustrated that we weren't even trying to get him involved

He was targeted, but Demeco Ryans was all over the place. Philly lost Alonso and Kendricks and haven't missed a beat with Ryans and Hicks

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