2013 Arkansas State Preview – Offense

Posted May 12, 2013

CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Arkansas State Red Wolves Offense

Arkansas State Red Wolves

Preview 2013 - Offense

- 2013 Arkansas State Preview | 2013 Arkansas State Offense
- 2013 Arkansas State Defense | 2013 Arkansas State Depth Chart

What You Need To Know: It might not be the wild and crazy up-tempo offense of Gus Malzahn's last season, but Bryan Harsin knows how to crank up an offense after doing wonders as Boise State's offensive coordinator. Former Bronco quarterback Bush Hamdan will combine with Eliah Drinkwitz as co-coordinators, and they have a ton of talent to work with helped mostly by a great line that returns four starters. David Oku proved he could shine as the main man at running back, and J.D. McKissic is a tremendous No. 1 target to work the passing game around, but a new quarterback has to emerge in place of all-star quarterback Ryan Aplin. The holes to patch aren't that big – even at quarterback – and there are nice options to play around with. Consider it a shocker if the O doesn't crank out over 450 yards and close to 35 points per game again.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Fredi Knighten
3-5, 44 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: David Oku
243 carries, 1,061 yds, 16 TD
Receiving: J.D. McKissic
103 catches, 1,022 yds, 5 TD

Star of the offense: Senior RB David Oku
Player who has to step up and be a star: Senior QB Phillip Butterfield, sophomore QB Stephen Hogan, sophomore QB Fredi Knighten or junior QB Chandler Rogers
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore TE Darion Griswold
Best pro prospect: Sophomore WR J.D. McKissic
Top three all-star candidates: 1) McKissic, 2) Oku, 3) OT Aaron Williams
Strength of the offense: O Line, Balance
Weakness of the offense: No Ryan Aplin, Fourth Coaching Staff In Four Years


How do you possibly replace Ryan Aplin and everything he did? ASU will give it a try with four quarterbacks thrown into the mix trying to take over the job. 6-2, 215-pound senior Phillip Butterfield would've been a natural lock to be the main man a few years ago, but he suffered a knee injury and missed all of 2011 and only got one throw in last season. Very smart and with a live arm, he was a big recruit for the program, and he showed early on in his career that he could play, but he's battling hard to be the main man in his final year. He's not going to run like he did, but he can throw.

Sophomore Fredi Knighten turned into the top backup last season, but he only saw a little bit of time completing 3-of-5 passes for 44 yards with a touchdown and a pick, throwing for the score against Western Kentucky, and he ran for 96 yards on the year including 45 in the blowout over Middle Tennessee. While he's only 5-10 and 160 pounds, he's a baller with a great passing arm and nice mobility. Also in the race is fellow sophomore Stephen Hogan, a scout teamer so far who came to ASU as a receiver but has the arm and mobility to be an option for the starting gig.

Watch Out For … JUCO transfer Chandler Rogers. Call him the X factor. The 6-2, 210-pounder from Copiah-Lincoln CC in Mississippi was a bomber cranking out 3,164 yards with 30 scores. He's accurate with good speed in the open field.
Strength: Four options. It's not like the Red Wolves are totally starting from scratch. There might not be a lot of experience, but all four options can play and all will get a long look throughout the summer. There's not a totally wrong answer.
Weakness: Ryan Aplin. Good luck finding a replacement for a Sun Belt Player of the Year performer throughout his career who threw 24 touchdown passes and just four picks last season. Throw in the change in coaching staff, and the quarterback situation is a huge key to the Sun Belt season.
Outlook: The Red Wolves will get production. Gus Malzahn might be gone and Ryan Aplin will be missed, but there are four talented athletes who can make things happen with either their legs or arm. The key will be deciding on one and coming up with a good pecking order – a quarterback controversy would be a disaster in Bryan Harsin's first season.
Unit Rating: 5.5

Running Backs

Senior David Oku came to ASU with high expectations after starting out his career at Tennessee where he was solid on kickoff returns while also adding a little bit as a running back. The 5-10, 195-pounder was a superstar prospect out of high school, and he's showing why rushing for 1,061 yards and 16 scores in his first year for the Red Wolves, highlighted by a 131-yard, three touchdown day against ULM. Also a nice receiver, he caught 20 passes for 159 yards and a touchdown including a key 43-yard scoring play against Troy. Extremely quick with good vision and balance, he's excellent when he gets a little room to move but he doesn't bring much power. He only averaged 4.4 yards per carry and didn't hit many home runs with his longest dash just 40 yards. The opportunities will be there this year to do even more.

Junior Frankie Jackson was a big part of the rushing game in 2011 with 355 yards and six scores, showing off good hands for the passing game and a nice burst when given his chances. Last year he was moved aside for Oku, but he still managed to run for 315 yards and four touchdowns while catching five passes for 61 yards. Fast, he also did a nice job on kickoff returns, but he also was a nice part of the offensive puzzle before getting dinged up late in the season. He did most of his work over the last few years against Memphis, running for 38 yards and two scores against the Tigers last season and 101 yards and a score two years ago.

Watch Out For … sophomore Michael Gordon. A huge recruit for the program last season, the 5-9, 190-pounder burned his redshirt season in a blowout over Alcorn State with 34 of his 45 rushing yards on the year. There's no questioning his speed, quickness and upside, but he needs a few chances.
Strength: Oku and help from the quarterbacks. No matter who the quarterback is, he's going to run a little bit and help out with the workload. With second-leading rusher Rocky Hayes gone to the secondary, Oku might have to carry more of the load. He can handle it, but there's still a problem with the ....
Weakness: Depth. Jackson has to be ready to become more explosive and do a lot more, and other runners have to emerge. Oku is a good one, but the less he has to do, the better. Ryan Aplin handled 104 of the 540 carries, so if the quarterbacks don't come through, the running backs have to do even more.
Outlook: The running game was fantastic last year. Take away the 438 yards and six scores from Aplin and the running backs still helped crank out well over 2,000 yards and 25 touchdowns. Oku might be the key to the season, but other backs are around to help.
Unit Rating: 5.5


Sophomore J.D. McKissic is fantastic in the classroom, and when he got his chance last year, he blew up with a team-leading 103 catches for 1,022 yards with five scores. While he has speed, he didn't come up with too many deep plays averaging under ten yards per catch. However, he was unstoppable as the year went on cranking out double-digit tackles in four of his last five games with 11 grabs for 113 yards and a touchdown in the bowl win over Kent State. A terrific route runner with great hands, the 5-10, 185-pounder proved right away that he could handle being a No. 1 receiver, and he'll be as reliable as any new quarterback could ask for.

Some of the key receivers are gone from last year, but Julian Jones is back. The 6-0, 190-pound senior only caught 13 passes, but he was the ultimate home run hitter with seven touchdowns and averaging 30.3 yards per play. The former defensive back proved he could make the transition blowing up time and again. Really fast and with nice size, he can stretch the field and still do even more as a reliable target. Also back in a starting role is 5-11, 185-pound senior Carlos McCants, another terrific deep threat who averaged a whopping 20.8 yards per catch making nine grabs for 187 yards and a touchdown. He might not have been a reliable and consistent receiver, but he had a few moments early and caught two 13-yard passes late.

5-10, 170-pound senior R.J. Fleming is a veteran who came up with nine catches for 113 yards, and while he only has 32 career grabs, he's experienced. Sophomore Derek Keaton is a 5-11, 170-pound sophomore with upside. He only caught one pass for 33 yards, but the former running back was a huge recruit last year with BCS athleticism and speed. Get the ball in his hands and he'll make something happen.

6-5, 240-pound sophomore Darion Griswold has all the tools to become a big-time all-around tight end with excellent size, terrific athleticism and great hands. A high school quarterback, he had no problems moving over making ten catches for 172 yards, averaging 17.2 yards per play, in his first season in the position. He'll be joined by Clayton Davis, a 6-3, 220-pound sophomore who's like a big wide receiver with good potential.

Watch Out For … Dijon Paschal, a 6-2, 185-pound freshman with the upside to make a big splash right away. Quick and athletic as a runner and a receiver, he can be used in a variety of ways and should be dangerous when he gets the ball in space.
Strength: McKissic. There might be some work to do to find reliable second and third receivers, but McKissic is a brilliant No. 1 to work around. Others might do more deep, but he'll be the one the quarterbacks rely on time and again.
Weakness: That No. 2 target. Josh Jarboe caught 50 passes and Taylor Stockemer added 31 grabs. Jones and McCants can fly, but they have to be able to come up with the short-to-midrange plays, too.
Outlook: The receiving corps will be fine. McKissic will once again be one of the Sun Belt's biggest stars, while the rest of the pieces will fill in around him. Griswold is going to emerge as more of a factor, while Fleming, Jones and McCants have the talent to do far more.
Unit Rating: 5.5

Offensive Line

The offensive line was phenomenal last season allowing just 15 sacks and paving the way for a league-leading 206 yards per try. Four starters return led by 6-5, 324-pound senior Aaron Williams, who stepped off the bus from Arizona Western College and turned into a star. While he has the bulk for the interior, he's a left tackle adding a physical element to the outside. With Williams stepping over, 6-2, 313-pound senior Steven Haunga is terrific at left guard with excellent size and great toughness. With the right size and good experience, and with time logged in at College of the Canyons in California before coming over, he'll be a consistent all-star.

Anchoring the veteran like is sophomore Bruce Giddens, who's a bit small at 6-0 and 265 pounds but he's feisty and he gets the job done. He took over the starting center job early on in his true freshman season and proved he could handle the work. 6-3, 290-pound junior Tyler Greve adds more size if needed, and he could also move over to left guard to work in place of Haunga if there's any shuffling.

6-5, 305-pound senior Cliff Mitchell only started in seven games, but he was excellent at right guard. With the body of a tackle, he's great in pass protection and could move one step over to the right side if he has to. With experience, a nice frame and good toughness, he's a nice all-around blocker.

Guard is set on the right side, but the tackle situation will be a bit of a battle with 6-4, 265-pound sophomore Steven Stevens, an extremely quick blocker who fights well and is great at getting on the move. He has the room to add a few more pounds and not lose his athleticism. Fighting for a spot is Travis Bodenstein, a big 6-5, 310-pound transfer from Kansas who has the raw bulk to play anywhere on the line. He'd be an ideal guard, but he might be too good to keep out of the starting lineup.

Watch Out For … JUCO transfer Brennan Tutor, a ready-made backup left tackle who'll likely start out behind Williams, but could quickly move over to the right side. He's not massive at 6-4 and 280 pounds, but he moves extremely well.
Strength: Experience and production. With four returning starters from the Sun Belt's best line, this could be one of the team's biggest strengths. It's a good-sized line that did a tremendous job last season. Once the fight tackle spot is filled, the line will be set.
Weakness: Quality depth. It actually isn't all that bad with plenty of upperclassmen who know what they're doing, but the starting five was so solid last season that few others had chances to log in meaningful time.
Outlook: This should be the best line in the Sun Belt. Williams and Haunga are blasters on the left side, and Giddens is fine in the middle despite his lack of bulk. Able to power away, wall off, and get moving, this group can do it all.
Unit Rating: 6

- 2013 Arkansas State Preview | 2013 Arkansas State Offense
- 2013 Arkansas State Defense | 2013 Arkansas State Depth Chart