COURTESY: Arkansas State
The Arkansas State Red Wolves shoot for another Sun Belt title with yet another head coach in 2014.
Overview: Arkansas State hired Blake Anderson to take over for Bryan Harsin which makes five new head coaches over the last five years. Despite the constant change the Red Wolves have been successful so Anderson will be expected to produce from day one which isn’t asking for the world with some key talent back.
Offense: Anderson’s priority has to be finding a replacement for quarterback with Adam Kennedy departing with 2,351 yards and a completion rate of 69% while rushing for 671 yards. Backup Freddi Knighten (34-48/215) seems like the logical choice if he can get the ball downfield and if he can’t then Dezmond Stegall or Chandler Rogers will get a look. With three of the top four runners gone the top job goes to Michael Gordon who totaled 754 yards and averaged 6.7 yards per touch. Knighten also ran for 354 yards but ASU needs somebody else to step up and share the work load. The same can be said for the receiving corps that returns top option JD McKissic (81-653) and TE Darion Griswold (24-312) but needs someone that can stretch the field. All SBC center Bryce Giddens is back but the Red Wolves lose three starters with three back that do have starting experince.
Defense: Who replace NT Ryan Carrethers who made 63.5 tackles in 2013? Four of the top seven overall are gone and the top four back have decent ability but hardly any depth unless a few players step out of the shadows. The good news is virtually everyone returns in the seconday with leading tackler Qushaun Lee (97.5 T) leading the linebacking unit. Rocky Hayes and Artez Brown are very solid corners with plenty of experience and depth in every area making this the absolute strength of the defense. The secondary is the best in the conference but the defensive line isn’t so we’ll have to see how things mesh as time goes on.
Special Teams: The big loss is Brian Davis who nailed 15-18 field goals including 6-8 beyond 40 yards. Paul Jones averaged over 38 yards on 41 punts and might get a shot at kicker but replacing the dependable Davis is probably not happening. McKissic will continue to handle all return duties and averaged 30 yards on 21 kick returns with a TD.
Outlook: The Red Wolves will field some great talent but are also in need of help in most areas aside from the secondary. If Anderson can fill these need then Arkansas State could win another conference crown and if not the team is still one to watch and will likely be Bowling once again.
Note: DT Markel Owens was shot and killed in a robbery at his home and I would be remiss for not mentioning this. It reminds us that the sport we love takes a backseat to real life issues.