With their first scrimmage of the 2012 preseason camp in the books, the Missouri State Bears returned to the practice field Monday with a pair of workouts to kick off the final week of two-a-days before the start of the fall semester. The Bears got back to the basics in a pair of 90-minute sessions, focusing on building on the positives from Saturday’s initial scrimmage.
One group that has plenty to be excited about from Saturday is the MSU receiving corps. In all, 15 different players recorded receptions in the 115-play scrimmage, as the Bears racked up more than 500 yards through the air and scored four times on passing plays.
The Bears will return four of their seven top receivers (induding TE Matt Thayer) from 2011 and should benefit from the team’s new-look, up-tempo offense. Gone is All-MVFC first-teamer Jermaine Saffold, who signed a free agent contract with the Cleveland Browns in April, but leading the charge of returnees is three-year starter Cadarrius Dotson. Dotson snagged 22 receptions for 214 yards a year ago and has 88 career catches. He led the club with 14 receptions for 170 yards this spring and is the early favorite to start at the slot receiver position this season.
Julian Burton, who played eight games as a redshirt freshman last year has been one of the squad’s top return men the last two years, but will move to outside receiver this fall in hopes of better utilizing his speed. He had 11 receptions for 94 yards in 2011 and averaged 7.3 yards per punt return, but has been hampered by a hamstring injury in fall camp.
Dorian Buford posted 10 receptions for 98 yards last fall and earned three starts in his first season at MSU. He’s the preseason favorite to take over the Z-receiver spot permanently this fall and has the size and speed to be a game changer.
“Our depth looks good, but we lack a lot of true playing experience,” said wide receivers coach Mike Chandler. “I’d really like to see Julian Burton step up this season, and I think we’d all like to see Cadarrius Dotson make strides for his senior year. Dorian Buford can play all three positions, and that is big for us.”
Backing up the big three will be senior Adrian Williams who had a bounce-back spring after struggling for playing time the last couple of years. He started four games in 2009, and rediscovered some of that magic in April with a game-high 6 receptions for 53 yards in the Maroon and White Spring Game. Redshirt freshman Eric Christophel also had a good spring and is a fundamentally-sound slot man who is one of the team’s best blocking receivers.
Returning squadman Duane Atteberry is also versatile and rugged enough to see some playing time this season, while newcomers Tre Kelley, Zac Hoover, Marvell Saffold, Eric Brown and Adam Judnich will all get their opportunities to impress. Kelley was the star of Saturday’s scrimmage, hauling in a pair of long touchdown passes and totaling a team-high 160 yards on six receptions.
“I’m not afraid to play freshmen,” said Chandler. “I’ve done that the last couple of years, so those guys will get their chance. Of the new players, Eric Christophel has all the tools. He’s scrappy, mixes it up in run blocking and just makes plays.”
MSU will practice at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday in its lone workout of the day.