The top 10 Arkansas State football players you need to know for the 2016 season.
1. DE Ja’Von Rolland-Jones, Jr.
The big question mark was whether or not he could stay healthy, missing almost the entire 2013 season hurt with a torn MCL and coming back with a nice 30-tackle, 7.5-sack, 12 tackle for loss redshirt freshman year. Last season he was 100% and was able to turn it loose a bit more with 37 tackles, 8.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss despite being targeted by every blocking scheme. He’s a linebacker-sized 6-2, 231-pound end with a special burst off the ball – he’ll be an all-star who has to be accounted for on every play.
2. OT Jemar Clark, Sr.
The all-star tackle has the bulk and toughness to work at either tackle spot, spending time at right tackle for most of last year earning First Team All-Sun Belt honors. At 6-6 and 304 pounds he has good size and the right frame, with the toughness and power to be a blaster for the ground game. A star pass protector, he came into his own last year, and now he should be one of the team leaders for the rebuilding attack.
3. OG Colton Jackson, Sr.
The versatile blocker earned First Team All-Sun Belt honors working at right guard, but with the quickness to work at right tackle earlier in his career. He’s not massive, but he’s a key to the ground game able to get his 6-4, 281-pound body down the field while bringing a nasty toughness when he finishes his blocks. Call him the almost unsung – he was named an all-star – star of the ground game.
4. LB Xavier Woodson-Luster, Sr.
Only 6-1 and 209 pounds, Woodson-Luster is built like a defensive back, but he has the quickness and athleticism of one, too. A smart, tough leader from the linebacking corps, he missed the first three games of the season and came back roaring making 71 tackles, with 13 against South Alabama and 11 against Georgia State after coming up with 95 two years ago. Able to get around, he came up with two interceptions, too. While he doesn’t have to do it all in the middle of the modified 4-2-5, he’ll always hold up.
5. SS Cody Brown, Sr.
The former JUCO transfer was a great get for the program, and he’s showing why with his 6-2, 204-pound size and big-time pop finishing third on the team with 65 tackles and with three picks. He’s built like a strong safety, but he gets around and has the range to work at any safety spot taking one of his interceptions for a key touchdown against Louisiana-Lafayette. A Second Team All-Sun Belt performer, he’s a force who can start getting into the backfield from time to time, too.
6. LB Khari Lain, Jr.
A big-time hitter in the body of a corner, the 5-10, 195-pound linebacker is a dangerous athlete on the outside with a great burst into the backfield and the range to drop into coverage without a problem. Tremendous in the open field, 51 of his 78 tackles were solo stops, to go along with two sacks, 7.5 tackles for loss, and with his one interception going for a 44-yard score against SW Missouri State. Can he hold up so close to the line? He’s been able to so far.
7. RB Warren Wand, Soph.
Is he ready to take over the workload? He’s not built to be a workhorse with 5-5, 174-pund size, but he’s a blazer with darting ability to get in and out of traffic and pile up yards in chunks, averaging nine yards per carry working behind Michael Gordon. A good receiver, he caught 18 passes for 135 yards, and he was a returner here and there, but he’s going to be the key back averaging over six yards per carry with 707 yards and five scores, highlighted by a 119-yard, one score day against Georgia State.
8. PK JD Houston, Sr.
The senior did some nice things coming through when needed last year taking over the kicking job hitting 12-of-14 field goals with his misses from 38 and 48 yards out. He did most of his work from close range – connecting on 11-of-12 from inside the 40, but he has a little bit of punch hitting a 42-yarder against Louisiana-Lafayette. He doesn’t have a huge leg, but he has a reliable one.
9. QB Justice Hansen, Jr.
Will the former Oklahoma quarterback take over the job, or will it be Pitt’s Chad Voytik? Hansen is a true dual-threat quarterback with pro-style size. 6-4 and 215 pounds with wide receiver speed, he has special skills and tools to become the exact right fit, but Voytik wouldn’t have come to ASU if he didn’t know he’d get the gig. There are other options, but Hansen has the biggest upside.
10. WR Dijon Paschal, Jr.
The 6-1, 211-pound veteran has the size, but mostly he can get down the field averaging over 19 yards per catch. With Tres Houston and J.D. McKissic both gone, he needs to grow into a No. 1 target after catching 28 passes for 541 yards and three scores. After being all but out of the mix in the first half of the season, he rolled for a terrific three-game stretch getting 100 yards in each including a 100-yard day on just two catches against ULM.