The 2018 Sam Houston State Bearkat football season is nearly upon us, with Coach K.C. Keeler’s group set to open up the year on September 8 vs Prairie View at Bowers Stadium.
This is the sixth of an eight-part preview, position by position of this year’s squad, leading up to the 2018 season opener.
WIDE RECEIVER/TIGHT END NOTABLES
Key Returners: Davion Davis, Nathan Stewart, Tyler Scott, Jaylen Harris, Coree Compton, Marquis Bates, Caleb Jolivette, Tevyn Stevenson, Quan Ardoin, Daegen Fowler, Josh Moore
Key Newcomers: Dee Bowens, Dewaylon Ingram, Henry Young, Woody Brandom
HUNTSVILLE – Having one all-American wide receiver is luxury enough for most teams. Going into 2018, the Sam Houston State Bearkats sport a luxury that is two-fold.
In 2017 wide receivers Davion Davis and Nathan Stewart combined for 2,854 yards and 31 receiving touchdowns, making them far and away the top receiving duo in all of the FCS. The Kats welcome back that pair for 2018, along with a corps of receivers that may be the strongest single position group in the nation and a number of tight ends who should keep the Bearkat offense rolling at a high rate once again.
Davis enters his senior campaign already holding the SHSU career record with 30 receiving touchdowns, but is also another big season away from taking hold of the Bearkat records in both career receptions and receiving yards set last season by Yedidiah Louis; however, even if he does secure those marks, he may not hold them for long.
That is because Nathan Stewart is right on his heels in all three categories and still has a pair of years left to suit up in a Bearkat uniform.
Davis’ versatility earned him the 2017 Offensive Player of the Year honor in the Southland after a year in which he finished with 1,206 receiving yards and 21 total touchdowns, including 17 receiving scores. He also rushed in a pair and returned two punts for scores, becoming just the fourth player in Bearkat history to score a receiving, rushing and return touchdown in the same season.
His numbers have steadily gone up each of his three years as a Bearkat, but he could be primed for his biggest year yet in the Kats’ revamped offense that is sure to keep the senior involved in multiple facets each week.
Opposite of Davis is Stewart who enters his junior season after a prolific two-year start to his Bearkat career. He is the first SHSU player to have multiple seasons of at least 1,000 yards receiving, and did so as both a freshman and sophomore. More impressive was his sophomore season where he was named a first team all-American and hauled in 14 touchdowns while leading all of the FCS with a SHSU-record 1,648 yards.
“They are two of the best receivers in the country, without question,” head coach K.C. Keeler said. “We’ve been fortunate to have some very talented skill guys since I’ve been here, but they are two of the best. They can just hurt you in so many different ways, and are a big reason we’ve had the success that we have had.”
But Davis and Stewart are not the only dangerous weapons that the Kats will boast on the outside this year. In all, SHSU returns five of its top six receivers from a year ago along with several other dangerous pieces who could have breakout seasons in 2018. Among those include slot receiver Tyler Scott and junior Coree Compton, each of whom have played key parts in the offensive attack the past two seasons. Scott, who was voted as a team captain as a senior, has hauled in over 600 yards worth of receptions and six scores over the past two seasons.
Meanwhile, Compton took advantage of his chance to get regular playing time as a sophomore when Yedidiah Louis went down with an injury midway through the year. While Louis was down for three games, Compton stepped in and caught 13 passes for 243 yards and a score, helping the Bearkat offense not miss a beat.
Sam Houston has also gotten explosive contributions from Jaylen Harris, not only as an all-SLC kick returner, but as a slot receiver, averaging 19.8 yards per catch for his career.
“Jaylen (Harris) has done very well in his chances, but we have a plethora of guys who can make plays at that position,” Keeler said. “Tevyn Stevenson has been very good in camp and Marquis Bates has a lot of ability on a very big frame. If it all comes together for him, he’s an instant mismatch for people.”
Redshirt freshman Quan Ardoin could also find his way into the rotation and stood out in the Kats’ spring game in April, while Caleb Jolivette is back to full speed after suffering an injury the final week of fall camp that forced him to miss the entire 2017 season.
“We are really excited to have Caleb back,” Keeler said. “He looks 100 percent right now, which is awesome, because he was the fastest player in the country coming out of high school last year.”
New additions to the group include Carthage standouts Dee Bowens and Dewaylon Ingram, along with former Texas A&M-Kingsville receiver Henry Young, who has been impressive in camp since he joined the team. Both Bowens and Ingram join the Kats after careers at Carthage High School that included a pair of state titles, and could find immediate playing time despite being true freshmen.
Despite checking in at just 5-7, Keeler said that Bowens was one of the team’s most impressive individuals during summer workouts. Meanwhile, Ingram’s long, 6-3 frame and overall skillset has the Bearkat staff excited about what he can bring to the table following a career that saw him haul in over 2,000 yards and 25 scores at CHS.
Bearkat quarterbacks will also have a talented group of tight ends to work with in 2018 who are coached by former Sam Houston offensive lineman Chris Rogers. Junior transfer Woody Brandom started off his career as a defensive lineman at Montana State, but morphed into a tight end last year at Riverside CC and has bulked up to 6-5, 260 pounds coming into this year.
“We are really excited about the possibilities we have this year at the tight end position with Woody, Daegen (Fowler) and Josh Moore,” Keeler said. “They are all big, physical guys and give us some opportunities to use the tight end position a little more creatively than we have been able to in the past, which should make an impact, especially in the run game.”
Fowler has played in 25 games over the past two seasons, used primarily in blocking situations, while Moore hauled in eight catches in eight games last year after transferring in from Missouri. Both check in at better than 250 pounds, giving the Kats three guys at the top of the depth chart who should all see steady action at tight end.