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Elon's super receiver to test Georgia Southern's defense
Warning sirens for bad weather aren’t uncommon these days. Another siren might be blasting to caution Georgia Southern defensive backs of a different type of potential disaster ahead.
The Eagles’ cause of concern Saturday is Elon’s wide receiver Aaron Mellette. After four games, the 6-foot-4, 212-pound junior is second in the Football Championship Subdivision in averaging 10.5 catches and 147.8 receiving yards a game.
To put Mellette’s accomplishments in perspective, he averages about four catches and 35 yards more than the entire Georgia Southern team.
“(Mellette) is a big-time player,” Eagles coach Jeff Monken said. “There were a lot of good wide receivers in the ACC I saw in my two years at Georgia Tech and playing some of the people we played at Navy, and (Mellette) is as good as any of those guys. He could play at that level.”
Mellette has good speed and is tall and physical — a daunting triple threat at any collegiate level, but particularly scary at the FCS level.
As a sophomore last season, Mellette led the Southern Conference with 86 catches and 12 touchdown receptions while piling up 1,100 yards.
Two weeks ago, Mellette caught 16 passes for 237 yards against North Carolina Central, earning not only the SoCon’s Player of the Week but College Football Performance Awards National Wide Receiver of the Week.
He had 11 catches for 180 yards and a touchdown in Elon’s season opener against Vanderbilt.
“Any one who watched the game would say he was the best one on the field that night,” Elon coach Jason Swepson said during a league teleconference call the following week.
And with Mellette often drawing the bulk of the defensive attention, other receivers are getting open. Phoenix quarterback Thomas Wilson has completed more than 70 percent of his passes this season.
“They’re obviously doing a nice job throwing the football and getting it to Aaron Mellette,” Monken said. “I’d try to find ways to get him the ball, too.”
So how will the Eagles try to slow down Mellette and the Elon passing attack? GSU’s secondary has been under an aerial siege since the start of the season and has allowed 294.3 passing yards a game — ranking 113th among 120 teams in the FCS.
None of the Eagles’ cornerbacks match up in size to Mallette. At 5-11, 171 pounds, Riyahd Jones is the team’s tallest corner and he gives up 5 inches and more than 40 pounds.
Laron Scott and Hudson Presume are both 5-9.
“We’re a team so we’ll play within our system,” said Jones, who has started the last two games. “He’s a very good receiver. We’ll try to limit the big plays.”
But it’s a tall task for Jones, a true freshman who is a converted wide receiver and never played cornerback in high school.
To complicate matters, GSU will play without experienced free safety Derek Heyden, a senior who had 29 straight starts but was lost for the season after suffering a neck injury against Western Carolina.
Monken said true freshman Deion Stanley, sophomore Lavelle Westbrooks and senior Michael Butler will man the two safety positions (free and strong).
When they’re paired on the same side, Mellette and Scott should be an interesting matchup to watch. Scott, a third-team All-American by The Sports Network, led the Eagles with 16 pass breakups and tied a school record with six interceptions last season.
A year ago, Mellette caught six passes for 121 yards and two touchdowns against GSU.
“Any receiver you’re lined up against it becomes mano y mano out there, for both sides” Scott said. “I’m going to try to hold down what he’d capable of doing. As a team, we have to focus on what we have to do to get the win.”
Georgia Southern (3-0, 2-0 SoCon) at Elon (3-1, 1-0 SoCon)
Where: Rhodes Stadium, Elon, N.C.
When: Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
TV/radio: No TV/WZAT 102.1 FM
By Donald Heath, Savannah Morning News