JONESBORO, Ar - The Arkansas State football team resumed its spring practice schedule Monday, holding its sixth workout in helmets and shorts at ASU Stadium after having over a week off for ASU's spring break.
"It was good to get back out here on the field," said ASU Head Coach Steve Roberts. "The practice was pretty sluggish early and the concentration wasn't what it needed to be, but you expect some of that after a long layoff and I thought we picked up as we went along. I hoped today's practice would have started better, but I thought we finished strong. I thought there were some outstanding plays out there on both sides of the football."
Highlighted by a long completion to senior Jarriel Norman, who leaped up to haul in the pass over the defenders head, some of the outstanding plays during the team portion of practice were made by the Red Wolves' receiving corp. There were a couple of other pass plays that went for nice gains, including a pair of receptions by senior Taylor Clements.
"We've got some players (at receiver) that are improving," said Roberts. "We had a couple of guys that made some tremendous plays today, but overall as a group we've still got to get better. We've got to have some of the guys that played well for us last year step up and play better than they are right now, but we did have several guys that had some very bright spots."
ASU returns its top two leading receivers from last year's team and has a wealth of experience and depth at the position. Seniors Brandon Thompkins and Jahbari McLennan both recorded a team-high 32 receptions last year and were responsible for a combined 962 receiving yards in 2008. Thompkins finished the year with 511 yards, while McLennan accounted for 451 yards.
Clements and Norman also return in 2009 for their senior seasons and Anthony Robinson will be a junior, adding to ASU's experience at the position. Clements, Norman and Robinson all saw extensive playing time last season and give ASU three more players that made contributions to the passing game in the past. The five players combined to account for over half of ASU's 167 receptions and 2,346 receiving yards.
"I think experience (at the position) is one of the things that is going to help us, but we've got to build on that," said Roberts. "We can't be satisfied with where we are right now and have to continue to improve. Jarriel Norman has had a great spring so far. Taylor Clements, Jahbari McLennan and Brandon Thompkins are doing some good things for us, but we've got some habits we need to get out of and keep working to get better."
Thompkins became the 11th player in school history to record 1,000 receiving yards in a career last season and now has 1,103 yards to his credit. His 81 career receptions are tied for the 10th most in ASU history as well. He enters the 2009 campaign needing just 19 receptions to become the fifth player in school history to catch at least 100 passes.