Coach: Blake Anderson
Arkansas State Players to watch:
***rFreshman QB Layne Hatcher (6-1/205)
Following a season-ending injury to quarterback Logan Bonner, Hatcher stepped into a starting role in the fifth game of the season and quarterbacked the squad to a 5-3 Sun Belt record. The Little Rock, Ark., native threw for at least 300 yards in five of his eight starts and completed multiple touchdown passes in each of those games. He ended the regular season by completing 177-of-259 passes for a 68.3 percentage that ranks as the second highest in school history.
Senior WR Omar Bayless (6-3/207)
Arkansas State senior wide receiver Omar Bayless was named the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year. Bayless completed the regular season as the national leader in receiving yards with a school and Sun Belt Conference-record 1,473 yards to his credit. He also posted the most receiving touchdowns in school and Sun Belt history with 16, a total that ranks second nationally. The Laurel, Miss., native also piled up 84 receptions, which currently stands as the third most ever by a Red Wolf.
Senior WR Kirk Merritt (6-0/215)
For the second year in a row, Arkansas State senior wide receiver Kirk Merritt, was named a first team All-Sun Belt Conference selection. While largely over shadowed this season by Bayless, Merritt has quitely managed put up 1,128 total yards.
Last year, Merritt was named the league’s Newcomer of the Year when the Destrehan, La., native caught 83 receptions for 1,005 yards.
*Junior DE William Bradley-King (6-4/250)
The Kansas City, Mo. native and 2019 first team All-Sun Belt pick has posted career-best numbers this season for tackles (46), tackles for loss (13.5), and sacks (8.5). Bradley-King also created three forced fumbles and recovered two.
Senior NB/S Darreon Jackson (6-0/205)
In his third and final season as a Red Wolf, Jackson was named first team All-Sun Belt after being a third-team honoree in 2018. During his time in Jonesboro, Jackson has appeared in 34 games. This year, he posted career-best numbers for tackles (103) and tackles-for-loss (7.5). He also led the team in total tackles and was the league’s leading tackler among defensive backs.
Coach: Butch Davis
FIU Players to watch:
*Junior DT Teair Tart (6-3/295)
JUCO defensive tackle Teair Tart was a high sought commodity after coming out of East Mississippi College (widely known as Last Chance U). Tart was recruited by just about every major program in the country and was considered an Alabama lean before having his scholarship rescinded due to being kicked out of EMCC.
It is unclear why Tart was removed from EMCC, however, Butch Davis and the FIU coaching staff seized the opportunity to convinced the four-star prospects to call FIU home.
Tart became an instant impact player for the Panthers. Listed at 6’4” 295 pounds, he displays good size and speed. He has 32 tackles, 10.5 tackles-for-loss, and 1.5 sacks on the year.
Senior QB James Morgan (6-4/213)
Morgan has earned invitations to the East-West Shrine Game (Jan. 18) and the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl (Jan. 18). The Panther QB has thrown for 39 scores in his two seasons at FIU, sitting three touchdown passes shy of tying the career mark at FIU.
Senior CB Stanley Thomas-Oliver (6-2/184)
Thomas-Oliver III has been a lockdown corner on his side of the field, while earning an INT and team-high seven pass breakups.
Senior MLB Sage Lewis (6-1/240)
Sage Lewis set a new program-record for tackles in 2018 with 124. He’s been playing through some injuries in 2019, but he still managed to rack up 81 tackles, and adding three interceptions.
Senior RB Anthony Jones (5-11/215)
Last year, Anthony Jones had been shot, and earliest word was the bullet hit the Florida International running back in the face.
“That this bullet entered where it did, traveled to where it exited, and did not hit a vessel, a nerve or disrupt the eye, or hit an artery that would cause him to bleed out and die … it is almost inconceivable that it missed everything that it missed,” FIU Associate Athletic Director for Sports Medicine Kevin O’Neill said. “It traveled up through the neck, which is just loaded with nerves and blood vessels, into the side of his esophagus, up through the soft palate in the top of the mouth and out below the eye. This was absolutely a miracle.”
Just two months after being shot, Jones made a miraculous and inspiring return to the field, he had eight carries for 31 yards. Jones capped the 2018 season with three touchdowns against Toledo in the Bahamas Bowl.
In 2019, Jones has 802 rushing yards, 925 total yards from scrimmage, and 9 touchdowns.
Raycom Media Camellia Bowl
Arkansas State 34, Florida International 26
Dec 21 | 5:30 p.m. | ESPN
2018 Raycom Media Camellia Bowl
Georgia Southern 23, Eastern Michigan 21