Aug. 8, 2012
BEAUMONT - Through the first two years of Lamar' resurrected football program, the Cardinals had a pair of wide receivers in J.J. Hayes and Marcus Jacksonwho littered the school record books with their names. With the duo gone, Lamar will rely on a young group of receivers to fill the role.
The Cardinals not only have several new players lining up to catch passes, but will also have a new position coach in Kevin Barbay. Just two days into preseason practices, Barbay is excited about the group of receivers under his charge.
"I've got a room full of eager guys who haven't got a whole lot of playing time, a whole lot of experience here, so they're all eager and chomping at the bit to get on the field," said Barbay. "What that creates is a whole lot of competition and a lot of guys pushing each other.
"Our group is very well mannered and unselfish. That's what we talk about a lot of the time. We want to be an unselfish contributor to the team and our receiving corps really exemplifies that. So it's a fun to coach a group that is really eager to learn."
Hayes and Jackson, who each caught 14 touchdown catches in their two seasons at Lamar, combined for 77 receptions in 2011. Lamar quarterbacks completed just 51 passes to the rest of the receivers which means there will be plenty of catches up for grabs this year.
One player who will be looked upon for leadership and production will be junior Barry Ford. The 6-foot-1, 175-pound Houston native finished with 10 catches for 77 yards in 2011 and is the leading returning wide receiver for the Cardinals in terms of passes caught.
"I think it's my time to step up and my turn to show the receivers how to act both on the field and off," said Ford as one of the older receivers on the team. "My role is to help the team as one piece of the puzzle. I want to do the little things, especially in practice, so that on game day; I can just go out and play."
Ford will be under his second offensive coordinator since coming to Lamar and is continuing to adjust to the new system.
"It's a much faster tempo than we've had the past two years," said Ford about new offensive coordinator Larry Kueck'ssystem. "Coach Kueck is on us every play about every move we make so that we can be really versatile players.
"It's like a job. You just have to go out there and do it and whatever mistakes you make, you come back on film to improve. We have to go out there and compete every day. You can't take a day off or that's when you can get complacent."
VanLawrance Franksis one of two seniors on the team at wide receiver. At just 5-feet-5 and 135 pounds, Franks has been more of a kick return specialist, but Barbay has been impressed with his work at receiver.
"Van Frankshas been very impressive with just his mannerisms and attitude and his speed," said Barbay. "He's a really good kid."
Jordan Edwards is back for his final campaign, while Lamar also returns junior Kye Hildreth, sophomore Jesse Sparks and redshirt freshman Reggie Begelton. Junior Payton Ploch and sophomore Davion Wolford are both moving from defense to wide receiver, as well.
Lamar has a pair of transfers at wide receiver that will be looked upon for production in Kevin Johnsonand B.J. Oyefeso. Johnson spent two years at Oklahoma State, while Oyefeso finished with 51 grabs for 628 yards and five touchdowns last season at Citrus College.
A large contingent of incoming freshmen will also look to contribute at receiver. Garrett Drake (Silsbee), Kelechi Ejekam (Houston), Gratian Gladney (Houston), Michael Handy (Conroe), Jayce Nelson (Port Neches) and Zach Sonnier(Orange) will all infuse talent and youth into the position.
"We've got a bunch of young guys who will all be back," said Barbay. "I'm excited about the talent that we have and the youth, as well. Now with that comes a lack of experience, but I feel very good about the group that we have. I feel good about the way that we're working and meshing right now."
Lamar opens the season at Louisiana-Lafayette on Sept. 1 at 6 p.m. The Cardinals' home opener will be the following Saturday (Sept. 8) at 7 p.m. when Prairie View A&M visits Provost Umphrey Stadium. Lamar will host five games following the Prairie View A&M contest. Highlights of the home schedule include the homecoming contest against McMurray at 7 p.m. Oct. 13 and a Southland Conference game against national runner-up Sam Houston State at 3 p.m. Oct. 27.
Tickets can be purchased at the Montagne Center ticket office, by calling (409) 880-1715, or visiting www.LamarCardinals.com.