Arkansas State wide receiver Omar Bayless is the best in the nation. Full stop. Though the end-of-season awards rarely show any love to Group of 5 players, Bayless is more than deserving of serious national recognition.
Earlier in the season, I wrote an article titled “Omar Bayless for Heisman”. Though the campaign was founded on solid ground, any rational NCAA football fan knew no Sun Belt player would ever seriously be considered for college football’s most prestigious award. The point of the campaign was not fully serious in that respect but was started to shed some light on a student-athlete deserving national recognition.
This story was originally published on RedWolfReport.com
Now, the campaign is shifting to a much more realistic and serious discussion. Monday morning, Bayless was named a Biletnikoff Award semifinalist. The Biletnikoff Award is given annually to the best wide receiver in college football. Only 12 players were named as semifinalists, including Bayless.
When discussing the best wide receiver in college football, what statistics might come into play? Perhaps a good place to start would be receiving yards, receiving yards per game, receptions, and touchdowns. Currently, Bayless leads the nation in yards (1,270), yards per game (127.0), and touchdowns (14). He is tied for sixth in total receptions (73) and holds sole possession of ninth place in receptions per game (7.3).
Though it shouldn’t go into his Bilenikoff discussion, it’s also worth noting that he leads the nation in blocked kicks (2).
|Receiving Yards Per Game||127.0||1st|
|Blocked Kicks||2||T – 1st|
Of course, Bayless may not be looked at as a serious candidate due to his conference affiliation. Any player in the Group of 5 — no matter how talented — is automatically thrown into a derogatory category that garners no respect on a national scale. The “real” football players play in the SEC and the Big Ten. There’s certainly no competition in the Sun Belt, the MAC, or Conference USA. Even the American and Mountain West lack a single decent football player, surely.
This is simply not the case. The old adage is that if you can play, you can play, and Bayless certainly can. He has the sheer talent and work ethic to compete at any level in college football. His perceived “lack of competition” has no barring on his abilities on the football field.
The single “bad” performance he has to his name this season is a 7-reception, 54-yard game on the road against the Georgia Bulldogs. In that game, the Arkansas State offensive line struggled to give quarterback Logan Bonner more than a mere second or two to get rid of the ball. Though Bayless did still haul in his average share of receptions, the ultimate result did not fall completely on his shoulders. He should not receive a “pass” for the performance, but amassing 24.5 percent of a teams’ total yards (220) in a 55-0 blowout should be worth something.
The most baffling part of Bayless’ ascension is just how quickly he rose from rather pedestrian to the best player in the entire Group of 5. A season ago, he was simply one of several solid receivers at Arkansas State. This year, he’s atop the nation in every important category. How did that happen?
While watching spring and fall camps, I noticed Bayless asserting himself as the top target. All offseason chatter was focused on Kirk Merritt (who deserves a lion’s share of praise himself), while Bayless was a mere after-thought. However, it became overwhelmingly obvious over the course of fall camp that Bayless would be a force to be reckoned with in the upcoming season.
He proved my theory right in the opener against SMU, scoring four touchdowns in the contest, and doing so with relative ease.
Bayless has been nothing short of a human highlight reel as he continuously one-ups himself for “play of the year” for the Red Wolves. His hard work and dedication to his craft are unmatched and unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed first-hand.
By the time his Arkansas State career is finished, they may have to rename the record book in his honor. He has already broken numerous records and has several others well within his sight. He is already the single-season and career record holder for receiving touchdowns at Arkansas State. He owns the Sun Belt record for receiving touchdowns in a single season and is within reach of the all-time career mark (29).
To compile a full list of his accomplishments would take days or even weeks of constant research and calculations. He has performed so high above the bar that the old standards of greatness are no longer visible.
|Statistic||Value||A-State Rank||Sun Belt Rank|
|Single-Season 100-Yard Games||7||1st||1st|
The fact that Bayless is a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award is a good start, but overall the lack of respect for the young man is grossly disingenuous and appalling. The fact that he has yet to receive a bid to the Senior Bowl is criminal, and his eventual exclusion from consideration for other national honors seems to be all but certain based on current trends.
At the absolute least, Bayless deserves to be a Biletnikoff Finalist and a Heisman candidate. He should already have Sun Belt Player of the Year virtually under wraps, and an All-American nod seems within the realm of possibility, though blatant disrespect has been an overwhelming trend in the Bayless saga.
If no one else will give Bayless his due credit, I will until my dying breath. Bayless is the best receiver in college football, and it is well past time he is recognized as such.