Preview 2017: Arkansas State Red Wolves

Preview 2017: Arkansas State Red Wolves

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Preview 2017: Arkansas State Red Wolves

Preview 2017: Arkansas State Red Wolves


Previewing and looking ahead at the Arkansas State Red Wolves season – and what you need to know.


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2017 Arkansas State Preview: Reloaded For Another Title?
2017 Arkansas State Schedule Breakdown & Analysis
– Arkansas State Previews: 2016 | 2015

What You Need To Know About The Arkansas State Offense

It took a little while to get rolling, but the offense started to find its groove at the right time over the second half of the season to turn things around. There are plenty of talented skill players returning, but there’s a massive issue no deal with.

There’s no one back up front. All five starters are gone from a line that did a whole lot of jack squat for the running game. Fortunately, the ground game returns a good pair of runners in Warren Wand and Johnston White to start, and a slew of other backs fold into the mix.

QB Justice Hansen can run a little, too. He took over and things started to pick up, and now the gig is all his. The receiving corps is full of options and upside, and Blake Mack might be the league’s best tight end.

Biggest Key To The Arkansas State Offense

Convert a third down chance. The offensive line is the biggest issue – more on that in a moment – but it all ties together. The line – even with five senior starters – struggled, the running game didn’t go anywhere, there were too many third-and-long situations, and there weren’t enough results.

ASU had the third-worst offense in the nation in third down conversions, getting the job done just 29% of the time. In five games, the Red Wolves converted 20% of their chances or fewer. By comparison, ASU converted 39% of the time two years ago.

What You Need To Know About The Arkansas State Defense

The Arkansas State defense stepped up and played great after a rocky first five games. After allowing 26 points or more over them first run, the D gave up fewer in each of the last eight.

It all starts with the pass rush, and that all starts with Ja’Von Rolland-Jones on one side. While he’s an undersized tweener, he’s a dominant force who’ll need to do even more with three starters gone up front.

The secondary in the 4-2-5 got a ton of help from the pressure up front, but three starters are gone, and getting back big-hitting safety Justin Clifton and corner Blaise Taylor will be a massive help.

Former JUCO transfer Kyle Wilson will continue to be one of the Sun Belt’s best all-around linebackers, but losing top-tackler Xavier Woodson-Luster is a problem.

Biggest Key To The Arkansas State Defense

Replenish the D line in a hurry, and keep the pass rush rolling. ASU came up with five sacks in the first four games, and lost all four. It generated 38 the rest of the way with the best pass rush the team came up with in years. Now it has to all continue.

Having back Rolland-Jones for one more year certainly helps, but losing fellow Sun Belt First Team performer Chris Odom, and interior presences Waylon Roberson and Jake Swalley, means a slew of last year’s rotational players have to step up to take the pressure off Rolland-Jones.

Arkansas State Will Be Far Better If …

The team someday stops committing penalties. In 2012, Arkansas State was flagged a mere 64 times for 598 yards, but was hit 30 more times the next year. In the three years since Blake Anderson was hired as the head coach? 320 penalties in the last three seasons with more than 100 in each one.

It wasn’t a consistent problem last season, but when the flags started coming, they came in waves with 18 in the loss to Utah State after ten against Auburn, and with 25 in the final two games.

Best Arkansas State Offensive Player

QB Justice Hansen, Jr. – The Oklahoma transfer was supposed to come in and set the world on fire after dominating in the JUCO ranks, but that didn’t happen right away. He was the backup early on, but once he hit his stride over the second half of the season, the offense took off.

A dual-threat option, the 6-4, 207-pounder only hit 58% of his passes, but he cut down on his mistakes – with just two picks over the final seven games after throwing six in a four-game span – and showed the ability to bomb away. He can run when needed, and he can hit the 300-yard mark from time to time. Consistency will be his key.

2. TE Blake Mack, Sr.
3. RB Warren Wand, Jr.
4. RB Johnston White, Sr.
5. OG Lanard Bonner, Jr.

Best Arkansas State Defensive Player

DE Ja’Von Rolland‐Jones, Sr. – The best defensive player in the Sun Belt last year, and three-time all-conference star, is back at it again. At 6-2 and 244 pounds, he’s not a massive defensive end, but he can move, coming up with 57 tackles with 13 sacks and 21 tackles for loss in his best season in an already great career.

A pure pass rusher, he’s got the drive, the savvy, and the consistency go keep coming game in and game out. The only returning starter up front, he’ll have to get ready to be even more of the focus of every blocking scheme.

2. S Justin Clifton, Jr.
3. LB Kyle Wilson, Sr.
4. CB Blaise Taylor, Sr.
5. DT Dee Liner, Sr.

Key Player To A Successful Season

OT Jamal Fontenot, Jr. – And the rest of the offensive line. The entire front five has to be replaced, but there are options ready to give it a go. The 302-pound Fontenot will likely try taking over for First Team All-Sun Belt blocker Jemar Clark at left tackle, while a slew of new guys will try filling in right away. Can JUCO transfers, recruits, and a few backups from last year get it done? Fontenot might have to lead the charge if …

The Arkansas State Season Will Be A Success If …

It wins the Sun Belt title. There’s a whole lot of work to do in several spots, but for a team that’s used to being in the bowl mix and the conference title hunt, anything less than winning the championship – or at least a part of it – will be a major disappointment. On talent and experience … no. It’s not there, and it won’t be early, but the schedule works out nicely with a whole lot of time to build up to …

Key Game To The Arkansas State Season

Dec. 2 vs. Troy – With no Appalachian State to play, and no marathon road trip to Idaho, the Sun Belt schedule isn’t all that bad. As long as the Red Wolves can handle the Georgia Southern option attack on the road early in October, and can survive the trip to South Alabama, they could and should be unbeaten in league play going into the finale. They shocked Troy 35-3 on the road last year, but just a win will do no matter what the score.

2016 Arkansas State Fun Stats

– 4th Quarter Scoring: Arkansas State 80 – Opponents 48
– Penalties: Arkansas State 107 for 835 yards – Opponents 89 for 713 yards
– Sacks: Arkansas State 43 for 265 yards – Opponents 27 for 181 yards

2017 Arkansas State Preview: Reloaded For Another Title?
2017 Arkansas State Schedule Breakdown & Analysis
– Arkansas State Previews: 2016 | 2015

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