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Mellette the threat
Georgia Southern defensive back A.J. McCray, left, hangs on for a tackle after Elon wide receiver Aaron Mellette catches a pass over the middle in last season's game at Paulson Stadium in this Sept. 25, 2010 file photo.

    Aaron Mellette comes to play whenever he suits up.
    The junior Elon wide receiver leads the Southern Conference in just about every receiving category, and Saturday when the Georgia Southern Eagles face the Phoenix at 1:30 p.m. in Elon, N.C., the Phoenix (3-1, 1-0 SoCon) won't change the game plan.
    "You've got to be aware of where he is at certain times, because he's definitely their go-to guy," said GSU defensive coordinator Jack Curtis. "We're going to stay within the scheme of our defense, but they've shown at certain times that when it comes to making a play, he's the guy they're going to."
    Mellette leads the league in receiving yards per game (147.8), receptions (42), receiving touchdowns (4) and is second in yards per catch (14.1).
    And it's not like everyone doesn't see it coming.
    "When Adrian Peterson was here," said GSU head coach Jeff Monken about the former Eagles' fullback who rushed for over 100 yards in each of his first 48 career games, "it was pretty clear we were going to give him the ball. [Mellette] is a very talented player, they like to throw it to him, he likes to catch it, and we'll do the best we can to keep him in check. You're not going to stop a guy like that."
    Elon boasts the league's best passing offense, and Mellette is responsible for nearly half of the team's 100 catches, more than half of the team's 1,140 receiving yards (591) and half of quarterback Thomas Wilson's eight touchdown passes.
    To put it into perspective, Elon senior A.J. Harris is second on the team with 14 catches.
    Georgia Southern's leading receiver, redshirt freshman Kentrellis Showers, has five catches for 91 yards.
    If you could call any part of GSU's defense suspect, it would be the passing defense, which ranks dead last in the SoCon at 294.3 yards per game allowed through the air.
    A lot of that has to do with the opposition, as GSU's three opponents - Western Carolina, Tusculum and Samford - have averaged an eye-popping 43.3 passes per game against the Eagles.
    "Probably more than anything, it's us having the lead," said Curtis about the amount of passing opponents have done against GSU. "Teams have ended the ballgame throwing the ball probably a little more than they have normally."
    The No. 1-ranked Eagles have yet to trail in a game this season and have led by at least 10 points at halftime of each game.
    The second-most-passed-on team in the league is Appalachian State, whose opponents have averaged 34 passing attempts per game. The Mountaineers allow an average of 236 yards per contest through the
    The Eagles (3-0, 2-0 SoCon) have made up for anything they've allowed through the air by holding opponents to only 58 rushing yards per game and 1.9 per attempt.
    The second-best rushing defense in the SoCon is The Citadel, allowing 117.7 yards per game and 3.1 per attempt.
    Georgia Southern has lost to Elon three out of the last four seasons and twice in a row on the road against the Phoenix.

    Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.