Arkansas State Preview 2006 Further Analysis
Posted Aug 8, 2006

Arkansas State Indians Preview 2006 - ASU Further Analysis

1st and Ten – Runners World – Although the title would indicate a love and a passion for cross country and/or distance running, it actually pertains to the strength of the Indians offense last season.  The running game was a solidifying presence for the Indians run to a bowl game and a Sun Belt Conference title; the Indians ran for nearly 200 yards per game (193 to be exact), but the two stars from last year’s backfield are out of eligibility.  Former RBs Antonio Warren and Shermar Bracey ran like the wind last year; however, both of them gone, so who will it be this year?  Who will wear the star this year?  Well, maybe the stars aren’t actually going to be the guys who carry the ball.  Meaning?  Meaning that perhaps the key to the running game might be stellar fullback Oren O’Neal.  Meaning that another key to the running game might the SBC’s best center Tanner Jenkins.  Two guys who don’t get a lot of credit for the yeoman like effort that they put in every Saturday could in fact carry this aspect of the offense with their blocking ability.  At that point, someone could make the argument that these two were the ringleaders for last year’s performance, and they wouldn’t be far off.  Just ask Warren and Bracey.  O’Neal is an absolute load lead blocking for the Indians’ tailback, regardless of who that might actually be this season.  At 6’ and 244, he’ll hit defenders right in the face and can get underneath their pads to get movement, creating seams for the tailbacks to exploit.  He won’t carry it much (once per game) and he won’t catch it much (less than one in every three games), but he creates space for his backs.  Jenkins does the same up front.  He’s been the leader of this offensive line and was a first team All-SBC honoree last season.  And, with good reason.  The value that these two bring to the Indian offense this season, its run offense, in particular, is immense, especially with the ‘rookies’ taking over for Warren and Bracey in the backfield in 2006.

2nd and Seven – We missed you…kinda – The worst thing for any athlete (much less any person) is to feel irrelevant.  This team needs to have me, they can’t exist or thrive without me.  It doesn’t matter what that player does, this team can’t go anywhere without him/her.  But, if a team can ever prove their mettle without said player, the one who believes he’s the one stirring the drink, irrelevance becomes a reality for that player.  Exhibit A – ASU linebacker Josh Williams.  After a tremendous campaign in 2004, Williams was suspended from the squad for the 2005 season.  The prevailing thought was that the Indians weren’t in good shape without the talented, but troubled Williams.  But, then the Indians went out, without Williams, mind you, and won the SBC and went to the New Orleans Bowl.  Perhaps irrelevant is too strong of a word, but if you’re Williams, how do you feel at this point?  Williams seemed to understand the error of his ways and came back this winter as a walk-on to try to prove his worth to this team and this coaching staff.  There’s no denying his size (6’1” and 255 pounds), speed and overall physical abilities, but the lesson inherent in watching the team play at the level ASU did last year without him, should be worth its weight in gold to both Williams and the rest of the team.  The linebackers weren’t the best unit in the Sun Belt Conference last season, but that doesn’t matter – it’s what the team did without him that should’ve gotten Williams attention.  If it did, look out.  Welcome back, stud.

3rd and Three – Hasta La Noce – Last year’s QB Nick Noce didn’t seem to do much of anything extremely well.  He wasn’t a brilliant open field runner.  He didn’t have a howitzer, nor did he have pristine throwing accuracy.  However, he could do enough to beat you and he usually did it in a key spot.  The best thing about Noce was that when he was on the field with 10 other guys, that group of people followed his every move and command.  He gave off a sort of Matt Hasselback, confident and cocksure vibe that filtered through to everyone else on the team, and it was a major reason why ASU was playing late in December.  So, replacing him at QB this year isn’t completely about numbers and stats, but it’s about who can ‘lead’ this team as he did last year.  Travis Hewitt and Corey Leonard each bring a little different ‘something’ to the table, but the one guy who’ll start is the one guy who ‘grabs’ the attention of this offense.  Like Senor Noce.

4th and One – The only way to go is up, right? – So, Coach Roberts, what are you going to do for an encore?  An SBC title and a New Orleans bowl bid mean so much to a program looking to establish itself for the long term.  Recruiting picks up.  National television exposure for one game can work wonders for the program.  The current team’s players have the experience of playing at another level and understand the concept of “work/reward”.  But, some teams can’t handle prosperity enough to stay at that championship caliber level on an annual basis.  The problem is that once you get to the proverbial mountain-top, the expectations from everyone around the program are to make it happen every year.  Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is detached from the expectations and that creates, well, problems.  What happens to the Indians is anyone’s guess, but there are some solid pieces in place to keep a steep fall from grace from happening.  After September 9th, there are only three home games the rest of the way, so the schedule doesn’t do them any favors at all.  It should be interesting for sure, that much we know.

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