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TSU receiver Jason Samples showed what he could do at Trojans’ annual T-Day game

By KEVIN PEARCEY

Sports Editor

Coaches call it separation.

It’s the ability of a wide receiver to push a defender off the line of scrimmage and then make a quick move to where the football is going to be thrown by the quarterback. Done right, there’s not a cornerback in America that can guard against it.

Last Saturday, Troy State wide receiver Jason Samples went out and did his best to get noticed. The 6-foot-3 sophomore from Swainsboro, Ga., came out of Troy State’s annual T-Day football scrimmage with 109 yards worth of receptions on only five catches. That equalled Heyward Skipper’s, the Trojans top returning receiver from last season, number of grabs. Skipper also hauled in five catches for 41 yards.

It’s clear that Samples, who was thrust into the Trojan Spread offense last year as a true freshman, is making his break from the pack.

"I just wanted to come out and let everybody know that I’m picking up where I left off from last year," said Samples. "There’s a lot of competition coming in with a lot of height, but I wanted to establish what I do best."

Samples knows he has to be at his best every time he steps on the field. Head coach Larry Blakeney nabbed a great catch himself when senior receiver Drew Amerson ( 97 catches, 1,244 yards) transferred to Troy State after Cal-State Northridge decided to cancel its football program. Returning receiver’s Thomie Venisee, Chris Day and Eric Felton are better this year for just having spent a season in offensive coordinator John Shannon’s four-wide system.

The freshmen arrive in August, which includes a list of high-profile wide receiver signees such as Torris Rutledge, Frank Taylor and Larry Brackins.

"I wanted to come in and show the coaches that I could be the man they could depend on," Samples said. "On third down and long or whatever. They don’t always have to go to ‘Skip’, if everyone’s keying on him."

Samples’ play certainly got the attention of Shannon. On two different occasions the sophomore fought off the challenge of Troy State defensive backs to grab deep passes thrown by quarterback Hansell Bearden.

The message was loud and clear: Samples wanted the football.

"He made more plays then anybody today," said Shannon. "I don’t know about No. 1 or No. 2, but he’s a playmaker and that’s what we’re looking for. He had been working hard and he’s improved this year a lot, just in the crispness of his routes, but in scrimmage situations he hadn’t jumped out like he did today. He just shined today."

Samples started 10 of 11 games for the Trojans last year. He went from totalling only a single grab in Troy State’s opening season loss to Nebraska to catching six balls against both Cal-State Northridge and Louisiana-Monroe. He averaged over 48 yards per ball game in the Trojans final six games of the season.

He finished with 350 yards, second to Skipper, who caught 60 passes from quarterback Brock Nutter for 995 yards. A versatile athlete, he also completed one pass for a 31 yard gain, not surprising since Samples also played quarterback at Swainsboro High School where he passed for 1,700 yards and rushed for 560.

The one thing Samples has yet to do as a Trojan, is reach the endzone.

But that should come sometimes next season.

He ran for 16 touchdowns as senior in high school and if the T-Day game was any indication, Jason Samples is just heating up.