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story.lead_photo.caption Arkansas State wide receiver Omar Bayless makes a catch against Nevada in last season’s Arizona Bowl.

JONESBORO -- David Duggan knows what good wide receivers look like when he sees them.

All the first-year Arkansas State University defensive coordinator and interim head coach has to do to confirm that is attend one of his own practices.

"I knew [our receivers] were talented coming in, but I didn't realize how talented they were until going against them every day," Duggan said. "I've said this to everybody that we have that's not associated with A-State, and they said, 'How's your team going to be?' I said, 'Well I don't know how we're going to be on defense, but I know for one thing -- those receivers are darn good.' "

Just take a gander at the who's who of ASU's receiver depth chart.

Despite losing Justin McInnis, the team's second-leading receiver last season, the Red Wolves are loaded with guys who are primed to make an impact in 2019.

Senior slot receiver Kirk Merritt -- who led the team with 83 receptions, 1,005 yards and 7 touchdowns last season in his first year with the program -- remains the Red Wolves' biggest weapon.

"He's a guy that can, [if] the ball's in his hands, he can be electric," ASU offensive coordinator Keith Heckendorf said. "He can take it the distance any time."

There's also seniors Omar Bayless and Dahu Green, and junior Jonathan Adams Jr. Bayless and Adams were third and fourth on the team, respectively, in receiving last season, combining for 56 catches, 833 yards and 5 touchdowns.

"We're really stacked at the position," said Merritt, the 2018 Sun Belt Conference Newcomer of the Year. "We all know that we have one ball. Each and every one of us can make a play at any given time."

Juniors Bubba Ogbebor and Brandon Bowling also are expected to receive playing time. True freshman Jeff Foreman had an impressive fall camp; junior-college transfer Eugene Minter has great size at 6-5 and 220 pounds; and the Red Wolves recently added another junior-college transfer in Leroy Deshazor.

But Green may be the biggest enigma of all of the wideouts.

The former University of Oklahoma transfer sat out the 2017 season per NCAA rules. In the Red Wolves' season opener last year against Southeast Missouri State, Green broke his ankle and was sidelined for the remainder of the season.

Green, who is a mismatch for most defensive backs at 6-5, had been turning heads early in fall camp, but a knee strain has limited him recently in practice. If the Red Wolves can keep Green healthy, they could have one of the toughest units of receivers to defend in the Group of 5 conferences.

"We call [Dahu] DeAndre Hopkins all the time," said Merritt, referring to the Houston Texans superstar wideout. "He has the dreads already, and he's already [6-5]. If you watch the film, he does the same things as him. Obviously, I feel like he has a future in the league, too."

Green and Merritt receive much of the attention, and deservedly so. Merritt has loads of speed and a knack for making the big play, and Green has an ability to go up and get the ball.

Bayless, though, could be a player that makes a leap this year.

"The harder things get ... the more Omar Bayless just shines," ASU wide receivers coach Kyle Cefalo said. "He's a leader in the group for sure. Guys look at him. He doesn't always say too much. He just works every day, which I just love."

Away from the football field, the Red Wolves' receiver room remains a tight group. Bayless said many of the receivers got together Saturday to watch the Florida-Miami game on TV. They also frequently eat together.

"Nine times out of 10," Bayless said, "you're gonna see the receivers together."

All that chemistry and talent have made Cefalo's job much easier, and it's created a competitive position group for ASU with lots of potential.

"Each guy brings great energy to the room, and on the field, we all just love to see each other be successful," Bayless said. "I feel like we push each other a whole lot. We got real love for each other. [We] spend a lot of time off the field together to make sure everybody doing right, and I feel like that just translates on the field to us doing great things."

Saturday’s game

SMU AT ARKANSAS STATE

WHEN 6 p.m.

WHERE Centennial Bank Stadium, Jonesboro

2018 RECORDS SMU 5-7; Arkansas State 8-5

TV None

Photo by Democrat-Gazette file photo
Arkansas State senior wide receiver Kirk Merritt led the Red Wolves’ receivers last season with 83 receptions for 1,005 yards and 7 touchdowns.

Sports on 08/29/2019

Print Headline: ASU happy to have many hands to feed

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