Ex-Tornado leads nation in receiving entering Week 3
Laurel High School graduate Omar Bayless has gotten off to one of the hottest starts in all of college football this season. The senior Arkansas State receiver attributes the explosion of production to extra work and conditioning put in over the off-season to ensure his final year with the Red Wolves would be special.
Through two games, Bayless has reeled in 16 receptions for 281 yards and five touchdowns. He is currently ranked No. 1 overall nationally in total touchdown receptions and No. 3 in total receiving yards, the only player to be ranked in the Top 3 in both categories. Bayless' four touchdown catches in Week 1 against Southern Methodist University tied the school record for single-game touchdowns. Bayless is also tied for third among the Red Wolves' all-time touchdowns leaders and is just five scores shy of the school's record for single-season touchdowns.
When asked about the records and accomplishments, Bayless said he does not pay as much attention to numbers as the fans, although he would be thrilled to leave his mark on the program by getting his name into the record books.
"I really don’t learn about the records and things until I scroll social media," said Bayless, "but it would be really cool to break some records and leave my mark as another great player to come through this program."
Bayless is on pace to shatter the season totals he has posted in his first three seasons with the Red Wolves, already having doubled the scoring total from his junior campaign. When asked to explain the success, Bayless points to hard work off the field and more opportunities given by coaches who trust him to make plays.
"I worked really hard in the offseason," Bayless said, "and all my coaches held me to a high standard, so I had to live up to those expectations. I also have had many opportunities to make plays for the team, and so far I've been able to make them."
With great success at receiver also comes a lot more attention from defensive coordinators, who will undoubtedly make stopping Bayless a large part of their game plan in the weeks to come. Bayless says the extra attention from opponents only drives him and his teammates to play harder.
"If they're going to approach us like that, I’m fine with that because we have other receivers whose playmaking ability is just as good as mine," said Bayless. "It doesn't really affect my game much. If anything, it makes me go harder."
Though the talent has always been evident, Bayless says the biggest difference between his game today compared to his game as a Laurel Tornado boils down to preparation and more attention to detail.
"I really took the time out to work on the fundamentals of my craft and slowing the game down in my head," Bayless said. "I watch extra film so I can be ahead of my opponent. I also take all the coaching I can get because my game can always be elevated to another level."
Bayless and the Red Wolves will be back in action Saturday when they travel to Athens to take on the No. 3 ranked Georgia Bulldogs.