August 19, 2009

"Countdown To Kickoff": The Receivers

Editor's Note: This is the third installment of an eight-part series produced by the FSU Athletics Communications Office looking at different position groups as the Bulldogs prepare for their 2009 season opener on Saturday, Aug. 29, against Tiffin at Top Taggart Field.

Big Rapids, Mich. - The Ferris State University football team's talented receiving corps may be young in 2009, but depth hopefully shouldn't be a huge concern.

Despite losing a pair of veteran wideouts from the local ranks in Big Rapids' own Cole Meredith and Rahseem Jones-Salaam of Baldwin as well as the top four pass catchers overall, the Bulldogs welcome back a handful of playmakers who earned valuable experience on the outside a season ago.

Two sophomores highlight the returnees and include Damien Miller (Elsie/Ovid-Elsie) and Mike Ryan (Howell), who both saw significant action as redshirt freshmen during the 2008 season.

Ryan tallied 10 catches for 180 yards and two scores a year ago.  Miller caught only four balls, but also made a valuable contribution on special teams as one of the squad's top return men last fall.

Sophomore Aaron Olman (Grandville) and redshirt freshman Jaron Butts (Maintou Beach/Addison) have yet to play, but showcased their abilities last spring and could contend for significant time in various roles this fall.

The Bulldogs also welcome back several other veterans with limited game experience to supply depth and challenge for time including juniors Matt Schuelke (Paris/Reed City), DeAndrie Rogers (Detroit/Pershing) and Keenan Bowman (Detroit/Cass Tech) along with senior Ron Hardy (Grand Rapids/Ottawa Hills), who did not play last fall but tallied nine catches for 98 yards in 2007.

"We've had several different young guys step up in the past year and they should give us a lot of different tools to work with this season," FSU head coach Jeff Pierce said.

Senior Chris Wilson (Hingsville, Ga./Long County) missed all of last season with an injury but could figure into the rotation if healthy.  He saw action in 15 games over the course of the 2006 and 2007 seasons and gives FSU an added dimension with his 6-6 frame.

At the slot position, the Bulldogs will have a number of players contending to play who should be able to help in both the passing and running game in much the same fashion as last year's leading receiver Tim Hogue, who also placed second on the squad in rushing yardage.

Versatile Alan Freeman (Westland/Inkster) helped Inkster to a state runner-up finish by running for more than 1,200 yards his senior campaign while the speedy Troy McClary tallied 1,208 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns in 2008 to go with 18 catches for 195 yards for Charlotte (Fla.) High School. Another freshman, Skyler Stoker (Jackson/Grass Lake) ran for 2,255 yards and 42 touchdowns as a prep senior out of the backfield and compiled more than 200 yards in four contests for Grass Lake.  The Bulldogs are also high on yet another talented freshman, slot Stephen Gardner (Massillon, Ohio/Jackson), who could contribute down the line.

Former tailback David Johnson (Detroit/Redford Union) is also among the candidates vying for time at the slot position.

"We're excited about the group of skill players we have and this unit has certainly developed," Pierce said.  "There's a lot of competition for positions and a number of guys have the ability to be impact players for us."

Ferris also has a pair of former receivers in redshirt fresman Kevin Guirand (Antioch, Ill./Lakes Community) and senior Kevin Ward (Commerce/Lakeland) who could see time in a tight end type offensive role where redshirt freshman offensive lineman Taylor Phillips (Orion/Lake Orion) may also contend for playing time.

Next Installment:  The "Countdown To Kickoff" series will resume on Thursday (Aug. 20) with a look at the offensive line.

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