JONESBORO -- Arkansas State University senior wide receiver Omar Bayless is having the type of season that puts the college football world, and even NFL scouts, on notice.
Bayless is the nation's leading receiver with 689 yards, 1 yard ahead of Liberty's Antonio Gandy-Golden. Bayless also ranks fifth nationally in receptions with 36, and fifth in receiving touchdowns with seven.
"I worked real hard in the offseason and all throughout the summer camp," Bayless said. "It's really no surprise when you go to work every day and good things happen."
Bayless posted a career-high 213 yards on 10 catches, which included a 92-yard touchdown reception on the Red Wolves' opening play, on Saturday night in ASU's 50-43 road victory over Troy.
He was tabbed as the College Football Hall of Fame's Kia player of the month this week.
"It's huge. It had a lot to do with people voting," Bayless said. "I thank them for their support, so hats off to them."
Sophomore running back Marcel Murray has missed all but one play in ASU's past three games with a nagging ankle injury, which he suffered in the first half of ASU's 43-17 victory over UNLV on Sept. 7.
Murray sat out the next week against Georgia, was in for the first play against Southern Illinois before exiting because of discomfort, then sat out Saturday against Troy.
Wednesday's practice was encouraging for Murray's status against Georgia State (2-2, 0-1 Sun Belt) this Saturday. Murray, who led ASU in rushing last year, ran with the first-team offense, and his running appeared to be fine.
ASU Coach Blake Anderson said after practice that Murray still is a game-time decision.
Murray was also made available to the media after practice, another telling sign of his progress. Murray, who was wearing a special brace on his left ankle, said he's getting close to 100%.
"I feel like I'm pretty good. I feel I can do everything now," Murray said. "With this brace I got on right now, I know it's kind of bulky, but it helps me do a lot of things that I couldn't do before."
Anderson said senior wide receiver Dahu Green, who's been dealing with a nagging knee injury since fall camp, is also a game-time decision against Georgia State.
Green saw his first action of the season Saturday against Troy, but it was brief and he didn't log a catch. Green was pulled soon after he appeared because of discomfort.
Anderson said Green is getting closer to 100%.
Freshman running back Isaiah Azubuike, who suffered a hip pointer against Troy, should play Saturday barring any setbacks, Anderson said.
"It's just really pain tolerance at this point, and it should get better between now and then," Anderson said.
Junior defensive end Jeffmario Brown, who's missed three consecutive games with a shoulder issue, was a full participant in Wednesday's practice and ran with the first-team defense. Anderson was optimistic about Brown and said he's looked good this week.
"Just could not get him to a point [the last three games] where he could go in and be as physical as he needed to be, but he's had no setbacks this week," Anderson said.
Anderson also provided an update on the timeline for senior defensive tackle Kevin Thurmon, who broke his hand against Southern Illinois on Sept. 21 and had surgery last week. Anderson said it's "very conceivable" that Thurmon could return against Louisiana-Lafayette on Oct. 17 in Jonesboro.
"If everything goes well, no setbacks -- everything went well with the surgery -- that this time next week we could be putting him in something that's a little bit harder that he can start playing through," Anderson said.
Senior nickel back Darreon Jackson was not at practice Wednesday. Anderson said Jackson was tending to "some off-the-field issues," but he's hopeful Jackson will return to practice today.
Junior center Jacob Still sat out practice as a precaution. Senior cornerback Jeremy Smith and junior linebacker Caleb Bonner, who were each banged up in the Troy game, were full participants with the first-team defense Wednesday. Senior running back Jamal Jones, a fifth-stringer who had 14 carries for 54 yards and a touchdown against Troy, was limited Wednesday.
Text from Hurts
After ASU lost junior starting quarterback Logan Bonner for the season last week, redshirt freshman Layne Hatcher, a former Pulaski Academy star and Alabama transfer, stepped in against Troy on the road in his first college start and lit up the stat sheet.
Hatcher completed 25 of 35 passes for 440 yards, 4 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, leading the Red Wolves (3-2, 1-0 Sun Belt) to a 50-43 victory in the conference opener.
His starting debut caught the attention of many, including one particular former Crimson Tide teammate -- Jalen Hurts, who's now at Oklahoma and having a Heisman-caliber season.
"He texted me after the game, just said he was happy for me and stay hungry and don't settle, so it was a cool experience," Hatcher said.
Hatcher said the two are close and talk frequently.
Hurts' decision to move to Oklahoma as a graduate transfer was one of the biggest storylines of the offseason. Hatcher left Alabama after spring camp to transfer to ASU, the school he initially signed with on national signing day in February 2018.
"Just seeing how he worked last year, he was a true competitor and awesome guy," Hatcher said of Hurts. "The way he's studied, I learned some things from him, so it was awesome to see him go [to Oklahoma], and I was the most excited guy in the world for him."
Arkansas State senior wide receiver Omar Bayless (above) leads the nation with 689 receiving yards and also ranks fifth nationally in receptions (36) and receiving touchdowns (7). His numbers are putting NFL scouts on notice.
Sports on 10/03/2019
Print Headline: Bayless catches on as top WR