Whether he has to speed up, slow down, dive, whatever it takes, there's few balls senior Jake Gaebler doesn't catch.
There he is in practice, catching pass after pass on a Tuesday afternoon in late August. Gaebler has become WKU's Mr. Dependable on the field. Last season he had team-highs of 54 catches, 588 yards and four touchdowns.
What Gaebler hasn't been able to do as automatic as catching passes is stay healthy. In fall camp, he's been battling a hamstring injury after suffering from back trouble last season. But Gaebler has made a spot as the Toppers' main receiver.
"It's nice to be comfortable with your spot," he said. "I have that confidence now, knowing that the coaches trust me and I have guys that look up to me on the team. As far as my preparation and my approach to practice and the games, that doesn't change. I'm still gonna go out there and work hard and try to improve every day."
Though he's carved his niche as a slot and possession receiver, he's getting more looks down-field in a more opened up offense under offensive coordinator Walter Wells. But however WKU has used Gaebler, he's produced.
"He just gets open and makes plays," coach David Elson said. "Then, you can go turn the film on and you can show the other guys and the younger guys, he's how he got open, here's why. He ran the route at the right depth. Some things are natural, honestly. There's just his body control and things that he does, I don't think any of us can take credit for, other than his mom and dad and his gene pool. To me, it's the simple things that he really does well, that's just a good example leadership-wise for the other guys."
While Gaebler carried the Toppers last year, with double digit catches in a pair of games, he'll have a little more help. Wide receiver might well be the deepest position on the field, allowing WKU to go in four and even five-wide sets, used some already in practice.
"Obviously, it's good because we've got some different weapons we can go to," wide receivers coach T.J. Weist said. "We can really keep guys fresh and keep them healthy instead of playing every snap. We do have some depth, we've gotta really get our legs back now that they've worked hard and two-a-days and running a lot."
One of those weapons who's been apt to make the big catch has been junior wide receiver Dustin Boyer. It hasn't been anything on the field that Boyer's really done different. It's been more about visualizing making the play when he's off the field, even sleeping.
But he and his teammates, most importantly Gaebler, will have to stay healthy to keep the depth factor.
"Definitely guys have been banged up and we've been wanting to get them back so we can get into a rhythm out there on the football field," Boyer said. "It's given other people opportunities. I had a good opportunity this spring, I thought I capitalized on it and I'm trying to work and get even better before the season."
Junior Quinterrance Cooper is slated to see some starting action, though he's been slow recovering in camp from a broken foot in the off-season, while sophomore Derrius Brooks is also returning from surgery for a broken foot.
Gaebler has gotten more various looks as well, getting sent on deep routes and of course, hauling in more than he's lost.
"I enjoy going deep too, for the long ball," he said. "A lot of that can be contributed to Coach (Jim) Nowell in the off-season. I feel faster out there and I know a lot of guys are saying that. I feel like getting to watch since I was injured, we just look faster and stronger overall as a team.
The literally grizzled veteran said he knows his importance this season. That's why he's tried to take good care of his body on and off the field.
"It's just staying in the training room, getting treatment and taking all the precautions before I get out here, to stay healthy and getting ready to go for the season," Gaebler said.
Just as long as he takes good care of those hands that make the catches.