Arkansas State returns 4 of the top 5 producers at the wide receiver position. However, the Spring Game showed that wide receiver is a position that can fall short on depth quickly.
The game showed a number of walk-ons that were forced into action due to injuries and personal situations causing several scholarship guys to miss. This fall when all the returnees are healthy and the incoming recruits are on campus, the wide receiver position should be a strength for the 2012 Red Wolves.
Josh Jarboe (6'3 215 RSR) finished second last fall in catches with 54 and had 730 yards receiving. Jarboe, the former Oklahoma signee, is an NFL talent but only found the endzone twice last fall. He has the size, speed and athleticism to be special. Jarboe had to fight through several injuries last fall and missed this spring due to an off-season shoulder surgery.
Jarboe was one of those guys that wasn't available for the Spring Game. Jarboe has the speed to play an outside receiver and the athletic ability to play the slot as well. Jarboe's health will be important as the fall rolls around. His willingness to push himself to become that NFL player could be the difference of if he is a SBC All-Conference type guy or a potential draft pick.
Taylor Stockemer (6'4 220 RSR) led the team last fall with a 15.8 yard per catch average. He was second in receiving yards (756) with only 48 catches. Stockemer also is blessed with NFL skills. Stockemer will be a combine star in the Spring of 2013 based on his measurable should he be invited to the NFL combine.
Stockemer is a legit deep threat that is very difficult for smaller cornerbacks to cover. Stockemer can outrun a corner and then has an outstanding vertical leap to go along with his length to go up and pick balls out the air.
Stockemer also led the Red Wolves in touchdown catches in 2011 with 7. Stockemer can break a number of career receiving records at Arkansas State this fall. Another one of Stockemer's strength is his ability to block, something that Malzahn wants out of his receivers.
Allen Muse (6'4 220 SR) missed the Spring Game as well due to an injury which was lingering from last fall. Muse missed the bowl game as well as a number of games throughout the season. Muse only had 16 catches for 154 yards in 2011 after putting up 42 catches for 635 yards as a sophomore.
Muse has the ability to be a very physical receiver, and in 2012 used his body to shield defenders off as he made a number of catches. If Muse can come back healthy in 2012, he will give the Red Wolves three big receivers that not only can be threats receiving the ball but also block downfield for the running backs and quarterback.
Who can replace Dwayne Frampton, last year's leading receiver will be a question that will be interesting to follow. While it will probably be one of or a combination of all the above big 3 recievers that replace Frampton's production, there were several guys that spent the spring pushing for that slot position that Frampton played. Earl Lucas (5'9 165 RSO) actually finished 2011 with the 4th most catches. Lucas is a quick athletic, slot receiver that had 20 catches for 225 yards receiving last fall as a redshirt freshman.
R.J. Fleming (5'10 175 JR) has had two years working in the slot as well. Fleming was set to have a breakout season this past fall in the slot opposite Frampton but most of those reps ended up going to Lucas when RJ was hobbled most fall due to hamstring issues. Fleming has had to endure a family tragedy that caused him to miss the bowl game, but his teammates have rallied around him to help him continue to work this spring.
He will need to get healthy by the fall in order to push for snaps. He has the skills to be a very good receiver and has the ability to also see time in the "Rabid Wolf" position as a former HS quarterback. Carlos McCants (5'11 185 RJR) had a good spring and has really progressed in his time at ASU.
He finished 2011 with 11 catches for 87 yards. McCants has a lot of straight line speed but has struggled at time with his hands. He has improved each year and will be called upon this year to play a backup roll on the outside but could fight for time in the slot as well. Julian Jones (6'0 185 RJR) is in a similar situation as McCants, but he may even be a little bit behind as he began as a cornerback at ASU.
Jones missed the spring game due to family issues and has been used sparingly during his time as a Red Wolf. This fall could give him a chance to push for a role.
The newcomers that may see action this fall will be led by redshirt freshman J.D. McKissic (5'10 185 RFR). McKissic was the show stealer from the WR position during the spring game. The previous coaching staff has touted that McKissic has the chance to be better than Frampton. He definitely showed the skills to be able to jump into that slot role and at the least reduce the loss of Frampton.
McKissic looked like a quicker, more athletic version of Frampton though it remains to be seen if he can be the gamer that Dwayne was.
There are a number of guys that will arrive this summer/fall that could see action as a receiver this fall but may be earmarked for other positions. The first of those is Tres Houston (6'2 185 SO) Houston led NE Miss CC in reception, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns but may end up as a safety at Arkansas State.
I think this may depend on what the staff sees as the most important need. I actually expect defensive back is Houston's final destination. A guy that has already been mentioned in these preview is Fredi Knighten (5'10 175 FR). Knighten is a quarterback that has the skill set to see action this fall as a slot receiver.
The player that may be the most athletic guy ASU signed this February is Camden Fairview athlete Derek Keaton (5'11 175 FR). Keaton may end up as a cornerback but his receiving skills could really keep him on the offensive side of the ball. Keaton set his high school season record in catches and receiving touchdowns. I have seen individuals compare him to recent New England draft pick receiver Joe Adams.
Two big receivers also will be added to the mix this fall when Warren Leapheart (6'4 205 FR) and Braelon Roberts (6'5 170 FR) arrive. Both of these guys may be a little more raw than other incoming guys but both bring size to a position that will lose it with the senior class. There are some walk-ons that have seen action this spring and will continue to push the scholarship guys for roles within the offense. Kelsey Collins (5'8 170 RSO) actually saw some action last fall for the Red Wolves including the run on the fumblerooski. William Boyd (6'1 195 RSO), Taylor Mason (6'0 175 RFR), Patrick Ryan (6'1 185 JR) and Booker Mays (5'11 165 FR) all will have a chance to fight for a spot on the depth chart when fall gets here.
Wide Receiver has some of the most talented guys in the history of Arkansas State at that position. There are at least 2 guys that can truly be NFL draft picks.
There are some excellent roll players as well as some young guys that have fantastic skills. If everyone can stay healthy and can work to do the little things that Malzahn, Lashlee and wide receiver coach Casey Woods demand from their wide receivers then this group has the chance to be the best in the Sun Belt. With Ryan Aplin tossing the ball and the talent available to catch it, then Malzahn should have a chance to be balanced with his run and pass game.