Aug. 18, 2014
BEAUMONT, Texas -
Depth. For every team, in every sport, at every position around the world coaches try to build depth. When a starter comes out of a game, for whatever reason, coaches want there to be little, to no, drop off in production. In 2013 Lamar's stable of receivers appeared to be the absolute definition of the word depth.
The Cardinals return skilled veterans like Jordan Edwards, Kevin Johnson and Payden McVey, had some talented young guys looking to make a name of their own like Reggie Begelton and Michael Handy, and added FBS transfer Mark Roberts. Lamar was so deep at the position they could afford to move the reigning conference newcomer of the year, Johnson, over to the defensive side of the ball.
The LU coaching staff feels so confident in that depth again this season that they have once again decided to move a receiver to a new position - Handy has made the move to running back. The reason the Cardinals fill so confident in moving a player as talented as Handy is because of the return of two of the best receivers in school history in Begelton and Roberts.
A local product from Beaumont's West Brook High School, Begelton became the premier receiver in the Southland Conference last season leading the league with 82 receptions for 858 yards and eight touchdowns.
Although it took a few games for Roberts to find his rhythm, he became one of the league's top deep threats hauling in 33 catches for 638 yards and eight scores. Roberts averaged nearly 20 yards per reception during his first season with Lamar.
With so much returning talent, about the biggest adjustment the receivers have had to make this season is to new receivers coach Arlington Nunn
. Although Nunn joined the Lamar staff in May he was shifted to receivers following the departure of Kevin Barbay
"Anytime you have a new coach take over, I think everyone relies on the older guys for help," said Begelton, a preseason All-Southland Conference selection. "Having said that, I think the transition has gone really smooth. I feel like we are all growing together."
"This is a pretty big, talented group of guys that we have this season," added Nunn. "These guys come to practice every day with a positive attitude, and they don't mind hard work. With so many veterans back, they are willing to help the younger guys. That is an added benefit anytime you come into a new place as a coach."
Begelton not only led the Southland in receptions last season, but also set a new Lamar single-season record with his 82 receptions. He also posted a school single-game mark with his 18 grabs in a win over Stephen F. Austin.
Roberts is no stranger to setting records either. He tied a school record when he caught three passes for touchdowns in the season finale against McNeese State.
"Begelton and Roberts are two very talented receivers that can cause a lot of problems for opposing defenses," said Nunn. "Mark is a tall receiver that brings a lot of speed so that makes it difficult for guys to lineup and press him. Begelton is just one of the hardest working kids you will ever be around. He takes his role very seriously. He just goes out every day and tries to get better. That is a great attribute from a guy who is already one of the best receivers in our conference."
In addition to the headliners, Lamar also has the benefit of returning both McVey and Dillon Barrett (6-4, 235) from last season. Although McVey got the majority of the starts last season at the Y receiver, Barrett saw his fair share of starts during the 2013 campaign as well. With both players back it gives Berry two more solid options in an already potent lineup.
"Payden is a very easy guy to coach," said tight ends coach Brett Ramsey. "He has taken it to a whole new level in the weight room this year. Payden has been around so long he is almost like another coach on the field. His biggest asset is the fact that he is a natural blocker. He really helps us in that area.
"Despite what Payden brings to the table, Dillon Barrett is really pushing him this year in camp. Where Payden is a little stronger, I believe Dillon has the upper hand in overall athleticism. I believe the competition at the Y is higher than at any other position, because Payden is being pushed harder than he ever has before," added Ramsey.
With all the talented returners coming back, it might be easy to overlook some of the other guys in the fold, but the Cardinals' talent goes beyond just the big names. Juniors Gratian Gladney and Jayce Nelson were bright spots for Lamar this past season. In addition to the returners the Cards also brought in talented athletes from the prep ranks like Martell Hawthorne (6-4, 200, Lake Charles, La.) and Tate Smith (6-4, 235, Texas City, Texas) who will be trying to make a name for themselves.
With all the previously mentioned names, LU fans shouldn't forget about Handy either. A receiver last season, Handy has made the transition to running back, but that doesn't mean Big Red couldn't see him lineup as a receiver in 2014.