LU WR’s Time to Shine

BEAUMONT, Texas – Mark Roberts, Reggie Begelton, Devonn Brown and Jordan Edwards are just some of the names that Lamar University football fans have grown accustomed to in the short time that Big Red has returned to the football field. During the first six years of the program’s restart, the Cardinals have produced several all-conference players, an All-American and had one rewrite the school record books in only two years – just to have a teammate erase those records the following season.

It is those big names at the position the Cardinals are missing this season, and that seems to have some concerned about the Cards in 2016. Instead of being a reason of concern it could be a cause for excitement. Prior to Begelton becoming the school’s all-time leading receiver, he entered his sophomore season with little fanfare having caught a total of 21 passes for 172 yards. It’s doubtful that anyone looked at Begelton in 2012 and thought he would go on to become the school’s benchmark of success for receivers.

The year prior to Begelton placing his name at the top of the LU record books his teammate – Roberts – did the same thing during an All-America campaign. Transferring from Houston with only two years of eligibility remaining, it’s pretty hard to imagine that anyone looked at him and thought “this guy will one day set the school’s career mark for touchdowns catches.” Point being, no one is a standout until they stand out.

“The good thing about Reggie being around – other than what he did on the field – is the example he set for the younger guys,” said LU receivers coach Arlington Nunn. “What most people forget is Reggie was a walk-on who earned a scholarship and ended up being one of the best receivers in school history. Reggie even admits ‘I wasn’t very good as a freshman.’ So he gives those younger guys hope knowing they can succeed if they work hard.”

The Cardinal returning with the most experience is 6-4, 204-pound Lake Charles, La., native Martell Hawthorne. Although he only caught eight passes for 76 yards and two touchdowns last season Hawthorne is entering his third year with program. He brings the size and speed to the position to be a top receiver in the Southland.

“Martell is a long receiver, with good speed,” said Nunn. “He has shown a knack for tracking down the long ball. He is the most experienced guy we have on the field. He is really passionate about trying to score after he’s made the catch.”

The Cardinals have added some quality athletes to the position by way of transfers to go along with their signing classes. In addition to Trenton Swinton, who came from Navy and was on the roster last season, LU also added Marcus Daggs (6-2, 191), DeWan Thompson (5-7, 172) and Clayton Turner (6-4, 207). Thompson spent his first collegiate season at Washington State, while Turner comes to the Golden Triangle from Miami. Daggs inked his signature with the Cardinals following a standout junior college career.

Thompson will have three years of eligibility remaining with the Cardinals after transferring from Washington State, while Daggs was one of the big prizes on signing day. A native of Waxahachie, Texas, Daggs hauled in 68 passes for 876 yards and 11 touchdowns during his sophomore season of junior college ball.

Turner is a versatile athlete who also has experience playing quarterback at the collegiate level. The 6-4 transfer from Miami brings similar size to the position as Hawthorne.

In addition to the transfers, the Cardinals coaching staff signed three receivers from the prep ranks – including two local athletes – to go along with Zae Giles who signed with the Cardinals in 2015. The 2016 high school signees include Kendrick King (Beaumont, Texas), Caisen Sullivan (Port Neches, Texas) andShane Hudson (Crosby, Texas).

“We do have a young group of guys this season,” said Nunn. “Martell has done an excellent job this offseason being a leader and working with the younger guys. He has done a good job working with the rest of the group on picking up their assignments and it’s coming together real good.”

“When I got here as a freshman, we had a lot of older guys in this program,” said Hawthorne. “I was just a pup, but they took the time to help me. I knew with them only have one year of eligibility remaining I was going to have to step up this season. Those guys taught me a lot to help better prepare me specifically for this season.”

For all of the talk of inexperience surrounding the receivers, it is the complete opposite at tight end. The Cardinals return their top two from last season, including senior DeAndre Jennings (6-1, 244) who some consider to be the best in the Southland. Along with Jennings, the Cardinals also return sophomore Duncan McVey (6-4, 227) and Sam McGee (who redshirted last season). All three are solid pass blockers who are also threat catching the football.

In addition to the returners, the coaching staff went out and added Mason Sikes (6-4, 249, Lumberton, Texas) on National Signing Day, to go along with Jordan Jones and Jack Dillard who joined the team during the spring.

“Both DeAndre and Duncan played for us last season, and both are very good football players,” said tight ends coach Jeff Breaux. “Jordan transferred to us during the spring and he really impressed us with the things that he could do with his athleticism. He can flex out and run good routes and has good hands. Mason is another young player who we think is going to be really good for us. He brings size to the position, can run and catches the ball real well.

“We have six guys who can play the position. We see this group as one of our strengths coming into the year,” added Breaux.

Jennings started all 11 games last season hauling in nine passes for 95 yards and a touchdown on his way to honorable mention All-Southland Conference honors, while McVey played in nine games and was used primarily as a blocker.

“I think the coaches have done a great job helping all of us come together as one unit,” said Jennings. “I think we’ve done a good job about getting in the film room and learning. I remember being a freshman and everything being new to me and things moving fast, but our young guys have really done a good job with that. Watching some of these young guys grow has been real impressive.”

Jennings, and those “young guys” will get their first crack at the 2016 season Saturday, Sept. 3, when nationally ranked Coastal Carolina comes calling. The game against the Chanticleers will kick off at 7 p.m. from Provost Umphrey Stadium.




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