STARKVILLE – Arceto Clark feels at home now.
Ever since his switch from cornerback to wide receiver about midway through spring drills, the third-year sophomore from Shannon has made rapid progress and could not only contribute, but could start for Mississippi State this fall.
“He may end up being one of our leading receivers, actually. The dude can play,” said sophomore Chad Bumphis, who led MSU in receiving last year. “I’ve known he can play, because I saw him play in high school and everything. I mean, he’s starting right now, he may end up being one of our leading receivers.”
Clark is being used on the outside, which means he can play either the X or the Z positions, as MSU’s coaches call them. Clark, a two-way standout at Shannon High School, played receiver as a freshman and then was moved to cornerback after head coach Dan Mullen was hired.
Clark had to sit out last year when legal issues – he was arrested for petit larceny that March – affected his academics to the point he became ineligible.
“He had to sit out last season but didn’t let that destroy him,” Mullen said. “He continued to work as a football player, and he’s done a pretty good.”
Clark sees his move back to receiver as a fresh start, and he called on his high school experience to help him adjust.
“Me playing receiver, I feel a little more comfortable going back to that side of the ball,” he said. “So it helped a lot.”
While coaches won’t commit to starters at receiver just yet – although it’s pretty clear Bumphis and senior Leon Berry will start – they say Clark is very much in the mix.
“Tremendous effort, is learning what to do, is getting in the right spots, is getting open,” offensive coordinator Les Koenning said. “His ability’s starting to show up on the field, and it’s been a very, very pleasant situation for us.”
Receivers settling in
Clark is one of six receivers the MSU coaches feel comfortable with, or as receivers coach Mark Hudspeth put it, “that I’ve got a lot of faith in.”
The others: Berry, Bumphis, sophomore Brandon Heavens, redshirt freshman Ricco Sanders, and sophomore Chris Smith.
Bumphis and Heavens line up at the H position, which is the inside receiver, a.k.a. the slot. On the outside, it’s Berry and Sanders at the X, Clark and Smith at the Z.
“Those guys have been pretty steady,” Hudspeth said. “We’re still trying to improve fundamentally, and we’ve got to become a little better stalk blockers.”
Heavens in particular has made great progress. Last season, he caught just seven passes for 36 yards, and Mullen called his number on a handful of sweep plays that gained little to nothing.
As Hudspeth noted, Heavens is 15 pounds heavier than he was prior to last season’s opener.
“Now he’s 174 pounds and a lot more physical,” Hudspeth said, “and that’s allowed him to be a guy we feel like, put him on the field, you feel OK about it, whatever you’ve got called. Last year, just way too light.”
A couple of true freshmen, Michael Carr and Jameon Lewis, will have chances to contribute this fall. Both have speed and playmaking ability, traits they’ve made evident in preseason work.
“We want to make sure when we put them in that they’ve got a chance to be successful and just don’t want to put them in a bad situation,” Hudspeth said.
In an interesting move, sophomore defensive end Shane McCardell was moved from defensive end to receiver last week. The 6-foot-5, 245-pounder becomes easily the biggest member of the receiving corps, and he’s got other tools – he’s been credited with a 4.6-second 40-yard dash and a 39-inch vertical leap.
But McCardell won’t likely make an impact this year.
“If we’d have moved him last spring and he got a chance to go through spring and throw routes all summer with the quarterbacks and then go through camp, it’d have been different,” Hudspeth said.
Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal