Aug. 29, 2009
NACOGDOCHES, Texas -
One thing is for certain following the 2008 season, offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson, and receiver coaches Todd Schonhar and Jared May, have turned the Stephen F. Austin campus into a utopia for receivers. When it comes to National Signing Day in February, every receiver in state will have to give SFA a double take, and you need look no further than the first-year numbers for your proof.
The Lumberjacks led the conference and were among the nation's elite last season in passing offense. Senior receiver Dominique Edison nearly doubled his output in one year compared to his three previous seasons on campus before earning All-America honors and getting drafted by the NFL's Tennessee Titans. Among his many records, Edison became only the fourth receiver in school history to record 1,000 receiving yards in one season, and set a single-season school record for receptions, only to have that mark broken by teammate Duane Brooks later in the same game. One thing to note about Brooks' record, it was set while missing two games due to an injury earlier in the year.
Having stated the above, expectations are once again high for the Lumberjack receiving corps that returns three of its top five targets from a year ago, with plenty talented athletes waiting for their time to shine. The 'Jacks' talented stable of receivers begins with Brooks and senior Contrevious Parks.
Brooks, who was named the 2008 SLC Newcomer of the Year, was one of the more electric players in the league. He finished the year with 863 receiving yards and four touchdowns. Brooks averaged 6.8 receptions per game during his junior campaign, which ranked 12th nationally.
"Duane is a very versatile athlete," said outside receivers coach Todd Schonhar. "His speed allows us to do a lot of things offensively. We will still use him some inside, but his speed makes him one of our playmakers. Although he put up big numbers last season, we are putting him in a position where we feel he can really expand on what he did last year. He really feels that he will be able to do more this season."
Parks is considered a dual-threat on the preseason all-conference squad earning second-team honors as a receiver and return specialist. He had a breakout year last season finishing third on the squad with 49 receptions for 591 yards and six touchdowns. He closed out the season earning Sports Network Honorable Mention All-America Honors.
"Contrevious has all-conference potential obviously," said inside receivers coach Jared May. "He had a breakout season last year and earned honorable mention All-America honors. He has really improved since the spring. His biggest asset is his speed. Contrevious has the ability to take it to the house anytime he touches the ball because of his speed."
Almost lost in the shuffle is 6-1, 202-lb., senior Aaron Rhea. A speedy wideout with good size, Rhea is a former honorable mention all-conference selection who provides SFA with a big target on the outside.
"Aaron had some games last season where he really stood out," said Schonhar. "But he also had some games where he just wasn't that consistent. We've really focused on that during the offseason. He's been moved into the position that Dominique played last season because we think he can make big plays. It would be unfair of us to expect the kind of numbers Dominique has last season, because Dominique had such a phenomenal year, but we expect Rhea to stand out for us."
With 24 career starts under his belt, Rhea enters his final season with some solid numbers. During his three seasons, Rhea has hauled in 83 passes for 1,002 yards and eight touchdowns.
Sophomore Brandon Scott and junior Marcus Taylor are two wide outs who should also see plenty of playing time in 2009. Scott brings size and speed to the position, and although he only caught nine passes for 63 yards last season, he played in 10 games and is currently listed as a starter at the Y.
"Brandon is a unique guy," said May. "He has a really good grasp of the offense because he played both inside and out during his short time here. He has the ability to make the tough catch in traffic. Brandon is a very tough player to defend."
Although Taylor recorded a bigger rookie season, in terms of stats, than he did in 2008 he should not be overlooked. Taylor has all the intangibles to a big play receiver in Southland Conference.
"Early on Marcus will probably help us at outside receiver, but we can also play him on the inside," said Schonhar. "I really believe we will be able to utilize Marcus in a number of ways because he is another guy who is so versatile."
Also in the mix to see some time in the receiver rotation are sophomores Taylor Lokey and Garret Williams, along with freshman Cordell Roberson and Gralyn Crawford. Both Lokey and Williams have shown a knack for getting open and making catches. Lokey has been slowed by injuries during preseason camp, but Williams has looked strong in the team's two scrimmages.
Although inexperienced, both Crawford and Roberson have given the SFA coaching staff plenty of reason to smile during preseason drills. Despite a bevy of talented receivers on the SFA campus, both have made big plays in the scrimmages, and both are currently listed second on the depth chart.