August 20, 2012
By ODU Athletics
ODU Sports

Aug. 20, 2012


"So far this preseason we're on a roll," said wide receivers coach Zohn Burden who oversees perhaps the deepest position on the 2012 Football Monarch squad. "We're developing our younger guys and the older guys are developing a great leadership role."

"The whole group, we expect to be the best wide receiver corps in the country," Burden said of a group that returns seven receivers that saw significant time last season. "That's how we're going to practice, that's how we are going to prepare, that's what the expectation is."

Leading off the receivers group is a familiar name in Nick Mayers, who not only returns the Monarchs' top receiving numbers, but has taken on the responsibility of developing the corps even further.

"The young kids can look up to him," said Burden of the Virginia Beach native. "He's developed into a great leader and the guys are really following his role."

"A lot of our receivers have improved even our older guys," noted redshirt sophomore Antonio Vaughan. "Nick has been teaching the younger guys to get on the same page, learn the plays, what to do on the field by doing the right thing, and getting everybody in the right spot at the right time so we all get on the same page and work hard."

"I think we're a tight group," said Blair Roberts of the receivers. "We play well together. If someone is not doing something right, the vets and the captains step up and tell us what we're doing wrong to help us improve."

Mayers, a Third Team All-CAA selection a year ago and Preseason All-CAA selection heading into this season, led all ODU receivers with 62 catches for 698 yards and seven touchdowns in 2012. He averaged 11.3 yards per catch, 58.2 receiving yards per game, ranking him sixth in the CAA, and averaged 5.17 receptions per game, ranking him third in the league. Through ODU's 32 total games since that 2009 inaugural season, Mayers has registered 100 or more yards of receiving six times, which included a career-high and school record 166 yards receiving against CAA Champion Towson.

"Preseason has been very intense. The offense and the defense have been going at it non-stop, said Mayers of preseason to-date "Things been getting a little heated out there, but it's all good. The level of competition has definitely been raised around here during practice and the coaches are staying on top us."

While Mayers will be looking to go out on a high note his senior season, a trio of fellow receivers in Vaughan, Roberts, and Larry Pinkard will be looking to parlay fantastic freshman campaigns into a stellar sophomore seasons.

Vaughan, who redshirted his first year with the Monarchs in 2010, made quite the impression in his very first game. He garnered ODU's first-ever CAA weekly award winner as he made his Monarch debut against Campbell with 191 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns. Third among the ODU receivers, Vaughan hauled in 47 catches in 2012 for 520 yards and five touchdowns, averaged 11.1 yards per catch and 40.0 yards per game.

Pinkard had a standout spring season and last fall made 37 catches for 488 yards and a team-leading nine touchdowns. He posted a season-high 94 yards and two touchdowns on six catches in the win over #9/10 James Madison, ODU's first win over a top-10 program, and registered a pair of touchdowns on three catches for 64 yards in the victory over #20 UMass, the Monarchs' first-ever CAA victory. Roberts, whose improvement was observed by both the coaching staff and his teammates, was another Monarch who had a standout spring and will be looking to increase last season's numbers. "Coach Burden has instilled in me route running and perfecting your routes and a lot of speed," said Roberts of his improvement. " The offense is revolved guys with a lot of speed. So that's what they want, they want you to run fast."

Two other veteran returners include seniors Chris Lovitt and Marquel Thomas. Lovitt has been a steady contributor to the offense the last three seasons and Thomas will always be in Monarch lore as scoring ODU's first-ever touchdown in the historic game against Chowan back in 2009.

"We've got a lot of new stuff for the wide receivers," mentioned Vaughan. "We've got a lot of receivers than can do different things on the field. Coach Burden has been working with us on the little things to get better."

Burden also noted to watch for sophomore Jakwail Bailey and redshirt freshman Kirk Spellman.

Bailey should see last years numbers, 118 yards on 12 catches, rise, while Spellman, a "757" player out of Indian River High School in Chesapeake, will get his first crack at collegiate ball after a scholastic career that included Second Team All-Southeastern District honors. "Their role is going to increase this year," noted Burden. "Expect some big things from those guys. In our offense we need all the guys to be able to go at any give time."

Also adding depth to the receivers will be redshirt freshman Aquante Thornton and newcomers Zach Pascal and Rashawn Proctor. Thorton, walked on the Monarchs last season, while Proctor led the Eastern Region in receiving yards with 45 receptions for 1,013 yards and 11 touchdowns his senior season en-route to First Team All-Eastern Region and All-Peninsula honors, and Pascal was a First Team All-County and Third-Team All-State selection out of Wise High School in Maryland with over 500 yards and eight touchdowns as a senior.

"Wide receivers, we've always been fast here since day one," said Mayers of his group. "We're going to continue to line up four and five wide with just pure speed. Guys like Blair (Roberts) and Larry (Pinkard), those guys are 6-foot and above. I'm hoping to get more explosive in the deep game. Me and guys like Vaughan are quick, shifty guys. We're trying to get the ball quick in our hands and get the ball fast down field."

"I just want to win," said Mayers of his goals this season. "As long as we win, I'm satisfied with that."

"Even though we know we can't play for the CAA championship," said Vaughan, who took his goals one step further, "we're still working hard to win all the games and to play for that national championship."