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Is it Wayne's world?

MU football
Aug. 12, 2011 @ 08:44 AM

HUNTINGTON -- You can spot him carefully walking across Joan C. Edwards Stadium's west bleachers carrying a weight. Or in the north end zone riding a stationary bike.

This is how Aaron Dobson has been spending the last few days of his preseason camp. It's how he spent the majority of his spring, too.

It's a hamstring injury that apparently won't stop nagging Marshall University's most explosive receiver and best deep threat.

With each day he misses, the Thundering Herd loses a little more electricity on offense.

"We need him back," said Gerad Parker, Marshall's receivers coach. "He's a guy that's made a bunch of plays on this field and on the road.

"He's made a bunch of plays for us. He's a guy we hang our hat on. He's a great guy with his knowledge. We're going to get him back healthy.

"We need him back. He helps us. And if he isn't, we'll go. But we like having A.D. here.

"The guys like him. He's one of our leaders. We need him to be a personality of this football team, this offense."

Herd head coach Doc Holliday said Dobson could be back next week, but there's no guarantee that the junior's tender right hammy will immediately return to great health.

So in the meantime (and potentially in the permanent future), MU is trotting out Wayne Bonner at Dobson's X receiver spot.

While they compare in size -- Dobson is 6-foot-3, 213 pounds, Bonner is 6-3, 203 pounds -- they stacked up differently in production -- Dobson has made 59 catches for 1,051 yards and nine touchdowns in his two seasons, Bonner has made eight catches for 89 yards in his one season.

But because Dobson suffered his injury early last spring, Bonner's grown accustomed to his adjustment to the first-team.

He's been doing it since April.

"It's just given me the opportunity to show the coaches I'm a playmaker," Bonner said. "I'm trying to step in and be a leader. That's the only thing I'm trying to do right now.

"Play my role and make plays."

Which he couldn't do at all last season.

Academic ineligibility pushed Bonner to the sideline for the entire 2010 campaign.

The announcement came during the week of MU's opener at Ohio State. At the time, Bonner was listed ahead of Dobson on the depth chart.

"It was tough," the redshirt senior said. "Knowing that I fought my butt off for that position. I earned it, I got it. Then when the time came -- the Ohio State game -- it was a heartbreaker.

"The reason it was a heartbreaker was because you find out two days before.

"The only thing I could do was just sacrificing, getting back on my grind."

Bonner's attempt at career revival has come through the eyes of Parker, who didn't join the staff until this past spring.

He's taken in a fresh outlook on the Milledgeville, Ga., native.

"I'm pleased with Wayne," Parker said. "Wayne's come a long way in the spring. You could tell Wayne was a guy that didn't get to play last year. He was raw and still didn't know how to do some stuff that he got rusty on and was still learning how.

"But now, it's starting to come together for him."

Parker said he wants his X receiver to be physical to the point where they can take advantage in man coverage situations.

Dobson is able to do that with his length, his superior leaping ability and sub 4.4-second 40-yard dash speed. His 96-yard touchdown against West Virginia might have been the signature moment of last season if it weren't for the Herd's late collapse against the Mountaineers.

Can Bonner turn similar tricks?

In terms of going long, Parker thinks so.

"He can go get it," Parker said. "We're working with him on stuff coming back to the ball. His stuff vertically, I'm very pleased with.

"He's a guy that can still go get the football down the field."

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