JONESBORO — Arkansas State senior wide receiver Jonathan Adams Jr. was named the Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Year on Monday.
Along with former quarterback Justice Hansen (2017) and running back Danny Smith (2002), Adams is the third player in ASU 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 in each of the last five seasons.
Adams, a former Jonesboro High School star, was also announced Monday as an honorable mention selection on the Pro Football Focus All-America team.
ASU had two first-team All-Sun Belt selections, Adams and senior linebacker Justin Rice. Senior defensive lineman Forrest Merrill was a second-team selection, while sophomore tight end/defensive end TW Ayers, junior quarterback Logan Bonner, senior wide receiver Brandon Bowling and sophomore quarterback Layne Hatcher were honorable mention selections.
A 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.
Adams was selected to the East-West Shrine Bowl and received a Hula Bowl invitation. He posted five 100-yard receiving games, 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 ASU player, while his 79 catches rank fifth in the school record books. Multiple outlets selected Adams as the national player of the week after ASU’s 35-31 victory at Kansas State, where he posted eight receptions for 98 yards and three touchdowns, including the game winner.
Leading the nation in tackles for loss, Rice is a Bednarik Award semifinalist. He piled up 18.5 tackles for loss to go with 76 tackles and 7.0 sacks. Rice’s tackle total included 57 solo stops, tied for the fourth in the country.
An East-West Shrine Bowl selection, Rice was named the Mountain West Conference Preseason Defensive Player of the Year before transferring to ASU from Fresno State.
Merrill received a Hula Bowl invitation. He started every game this season, posting 42 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
Ayers, a Burlsworth Trophy nominee, earned at least one starting nod on both sides of the ball, including the last four games at defensive end. He is one of three players in the nation this season to record at least one receiving touchdown and one sack.
Bonner started every game at quarterback, completing 156-of-262 passes for 1,863 yards and 18 touchdowns. Hatcher leads the nation in passing yards per completion (17.7 avg.) while ranking ninth in passing efficiency. Bowling finished the season with 39 receptions for 507 yards and seven touchdowns.