New Eagles receivers coach Mike Groh has known about Nelson Agholor for over half a decade.
Groh was the receivers coach at Alabama from 2011-12, the exact time Agholor, a five-star prospect out of Tampa, Florida, was making his college decision. Agholor went to USC and ended up being a first-round pick a few years later.
What did Groh think of Agholor back then?
"Well, we recruited him at Alabama," Groh said Friday, breaking into a smile. "We thought he was pretty good. And still think that."
Groh, 45, was hired this offseason to replace former wideouts coach Greg Lewis, the only casualty from Doug Pederson's first staff. Perhaps part of the reason Lewis was let go was that the young receivers in the building — Agholor included — failed to improve throughout the 2016 season.
From the time Agholor was drafted by the Eagles with the 20th pick in 2015, the USC product has been a disappointment. Thrust into a starting role, Agholor simply hasn't lived up to his draft status and last year things got so bad, Pederson was forced to give him a mental health game day during the season.
Groh wasn't here for any of that. He was with the Bears in 2015 and with the Rams in 2016. All he knows of Agholor as a pro is the tape he's watched from last season and from seeing Agholor on the practice field during OTAs and minicamp this spring.
"Nelson Agholor is a first-round pick and has first-round talent," Groh said.
This spring, Agholor has actually shown it.
Now, every Agholor story that has come out of spring practices has been and should be met with a great level of apprehension. Until Agholor actually shows he can perform in a game, skepticism is just.
But all Groh can go on is what he's seen this spring. And what he's seen has been pretty darn good.
"I've been really pleased with the spring that he had," Groh said. "He had a really productive spring. He attacked the spring. He's shown up and made an impact at virtually every practice. Really excited about where he's at right now."
Agholor, 24, was the standout star of this year's spring practices. And after Jordan Matthews was forced out of practice with a knee injury, Agholor took over in the slot and impressed even more. Groh really likes Agholor's versatility, saying it makes him valuable in the Eagles' offense.
With Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith and Jordan Matthews on the team, Agholor seems destined to fill a backup role this season, which might be better for him — a chance to develop without the bright lights a starting job brings with it. That spotlight really got to Agholor last year and his confidence was clearly shaken.
"I think confidence is a result of demonstrative performance," Groh said. "The more positive results he has in practice, I think that will elevate his confidence. He's had a really good spring from that standpoint."
From the time Groh arrived, he's been working on the basics with Agholor, although he mentioned that not specific to the former first-rounder. Agholor spent his spring tracking his drops during OTAs, a practice that is uniquely Nelson Agholor, concerned — perhaps overly — about the details.
The Eagles hope it works. They hope Groh is the guy to help get some return out of their former first-round pick.
On Friday, Groh echoed something he used to hear from coaching great Bill Parcells: "By the third year, a guy ought to tell you who he's going to be at this level."
The clock is ticking. This season will be Year 3 for Agholor.