JONESBORO — Arkansas State senior wide receiver Jonathan Adams Jr. was named the Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Year on Monday and was one of seven Red Wolves, including a pair of first-team selections, earning all-conference recognition.
Joining Adams as a First Team All-Sun Belt pick for A-State was senior linebacker Justin Rice, while senior defensive lineman Forrest Merrill was a second-team choice. Representing the Red Wolves as honorable-mention selections were sophomore tight end/defensive end TW Ayers, junior quarterback Logan Bonner, senior wide receiver Brandon Bowling and sophomore quarterback Layne Hatcher.
Along with former quarterback Justice Hansen (2017) and running back Danny Smith (2002), Adams becomes the third player in A-State history to be named the Sun Belt’s Offensive Player of the Year. An Arkansas State player has now been named the league’s Player of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year or Defensive Player of the Year each of the last five seasons.
A 2020 Biletnikoff Award semifinalist, Adams ranks third in the nation in total receptions (79) and touchdown catches (12) and fifth in receiving yards (1,111). Both his 7.9 receptions per game and 111.1 receiving yards average rank ninth in the country.
The Jonesboro, Ark., native was twice named the Sun Belt’s Offensive Player of the Week this season while being selected to the East-West Shrine Bowl and receiving a Hula Bowl invitation. He posted five 100-yard receiving games that are tied for the sixth most in the nation and tied for the second most in both Arkansas State and Sun Belt Conference history.
Adams’ 1,111 receiving yards are the third most ever by an A-State player, while his 79 catches rank fifth in the school record books. He was selected as the National Player of the Week by the Maxwell Award, 247Sports, Athlon Sports (offensive) and Frisco Bowl (offensive) after leading A-State to a 35-31 victory over Kansas State, when he posted eight receptions for 98 yards and a career-high three touchdowns, including the game winner.
Adams was responsible for at least five catches in every game this season and caught multiple passes in 25 consecutive games while climbing the career-records charts at A-State. He ranks second all-time at A-State for receiving touchdowns (21), third for receptions (166) and fifth for receiving yards (2,306). His 21 career touchdown grabs are also tied for the fifth most in Sun Belt Conference history.
Leading the nation in tackles for loss (18.5), Rice is a Bednarik Award semifinalist and was on the Bronko Nagurski Watch List this season. He piled up 18.5 tackles for loss to go along with 76 tackles and 7.0 sacks. His tackles total included 57 solo stops that are tied for the fourth most in the country, while he ranks tied for 17th in total sacks.
An East-West Shrine Bowl selection, Rice was named the Mountain West Conference Preseason Defensive Player of the Year before transferring to A-State from Fresno State. He made an immediate impact on A-State’s defense as his 76 tackles not only led the team, but also rank eighth in the Sun Belt.
Also a 2018 Second Team All-Sun Belt pick, Merrill received a Hula Bowl invitation and was a William V. Campbell Trophy Semifinalist. He started every game this season, posting 42 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
Making his first appearance on an All-Sun Belt Team, Ayers was a Burlsworth Trophy nominee this season. A true all-purpose players seeing action in all three phases of the game, Ayers earned at least one starting nod on both sides of the ball, including the last four games of the season at defensive end. He is one of just three players in the nation this season to record at least one receiving touchdown and one sack.
Bonner started every game at quarterback for the Red Wolves in 2020, completing 156-of-262 passes for 1,863 yards and 18 touchdowns that ranked as the 11th most in school history for a single season. He completed multiple touchdown passes in six games, including a career-high four against South Alabama. Bonner also threw for at least 200 yards in three outings and finished with a 137.4 pass efficiency rating that ranks seventh in the Sun Belt.
Bowling recorded career-best numbers while playing in all 11 A-State games, including nine as a starter. He finished the season with 39 receptions for 507 yards and seven touchdowns, ranking sixth in the Sun Belt in receiving touchdowns, 12th in total receptions and 13th in receiving yards. His seven touchdown passes tied the eighth most in school history for a single season.
The 2019 Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year, Hatcher was a member of the 2020 College Football Performance Awards (CFPA) National Performer of the Year Watch List. A two-time Manning Award “Star of the Week” and CFPA Honorable Mention National Performer of the Week, Hatcher leads the nation in passing yards per completion (17.7 avg.) while ranking ninth in passing efficiency (179.2), 17th in passing touchdowns (19), 30th in passing yards (2,058) and 38th in points responsible for (116).