Arkansas State Preview 2006 - Offense
Posted Aug 8, 2006

Arkansas State Indians Preview 2006 - ASU Offense

What you need to know ... ASU's offense needs some revamping in the backfield losing starting QB Nick Noce along with over 1,700 yards of rushing production in backs Antonio Warren and Shermar Bracey. On the plus side, the receiving corps is loaded with experience and the line should challenge to be the best in the Sun Belt. The quarterback situation is up in the air with Travis Hewitt and Corey Leonard each getting their chance to take control.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Travis Hewitt
3-8, 50 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Chris Easley
32 carries, 187 yds, 1 TD
Receiving: Levi Dejohnette
41 catches, 554 yds, 1 TD

Star of the offense: Senior FB Oren O'Neal
Player that has to step up and become a star: Sophomore QB Travis Hewitt or redshirt freshman Corey Leonard
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman RB Reggie Arnold
Best pro prospect: O'Neal
Top three all-star candidates: 1) O'Neal, 2) C Tanner Jenkins, 3) OT Matt Mandich
Strength of the offense: Receiving corps, offensive line
Weakness of the offense:
Quarterback, offensive line depth

Nick Noce had the luxury of handing the ball off over and over again to let the great running game carry the offense, but the new starter will have to throw it more since receiver is one of the team's strengths. Travis Hewitt didn't show too much in garbage time duty last year, but he knows the system and will get the first crack at the job. Corey Leonard has the better all-around skills, but he needs more work before he's ready. Even so, it wouldn't be a shock if he's the opening day starter.
The key to the unit: Accuracy. ASU is a running team, so the quarterback who makes the better plays on third downs and is the most efficient will get the job.
Quarterback Rating: 4

Projected Starter
- Travis Hewitt, Soph. - 3-8, 50 yds, 37.5%, 1 TD
Hewitt will get the first crack at replacing Nick Noce. While he should be able to match Noce's production, it might be harder to fill the leadership void. He's the only returning quarterback with any experience and has good mobility and a decent enough arm to push the ball downfield a bit more.

Top Backups
- Corey Leonard, RFr.
Leonard has all the tools to be a star, but he needs practice time and experience. He was a top recruit by several big schools, but not necessarily as a quarterback with many wanting to make him a defensive back thanks to his tremendous speed and leaping ability. He was also a top baseball player, but he's going to push for the starting quarterback job and should see time soon.

Running Backs
Arkansas State had a tremendously effective ground game last year thanks to Antonio Warren and Shermar Bracey, who each ran for most than six yards a crack. Reggie Arnold will get the first crack at being the new star, but Chris Easley will get the long look to take over the workload. Both will be pushed hard by the ultra-quick Chris James. Cedric Wilkerson is another small back who'll see some work. Oren O'Neal is the best fullback in the Sun Belt. 
The key to the unit: A good rotation has to develop to keep everyone fresh while hoping for Reggie Arnold to be another Antonio Warren.
Running Back Rating: 5

Projected Starters
- Reggie Arnold, RFr.
Arnold has way too much potential to keep off the field. He's the biggest back in the mix at 217 pounds, and he's also the fastest with warp sub 4.4 speed. He was named the starter coming out of spring ball, but he'll have to battle to keep the spot this summer.

- Fullback Oren O'Neal, Sr. - 13 carries, 34 yds, 2 TD, 4 catches, 47 yds, 1 TD
One of the nation's best fullbacks, the 244-pound senior got a sixth year of eligibility thanks to a hernia injury suffered a few years ago. He's a powerful runner and a crushing run blocker. He can also catch, but he won't be used too much as a receiver; he's more valuable in pass protection. 

Top Backups
- Chris Easley, Jr. - 32 carries, 187 yds, 5.8 ypc, 1 TD, 2 catches, 13 yards
Easley saw a little bit of work last year, but he had to wait his turn behind Antonio Warren and Shermar Bracey. The 211-pound Easley, who wasn't quite right last year, should finally be back to his old self after missing all of 2004 with a bad knee injury. He has the talent to be a 1,000-yard back, but he'll have to prove he can handle the workload.
- Chris James, Soph. - 4 carries, 37 yds, 1 TD
James is a small, stocky runner with good power in a 5-9, 209-pound frame. He scored a 21-yard touchdown against FIU on his first career carry, but he didn't see much work the rest of the way. That'll quickly change this year as he'll be the main backup in the rotation with Chris Easley and Reggie Arnold. 
- Jon Hoeflinger. Sr.
There's not much work for a backup fullback when Oren O'Neal has the starting job. The 221-pound Hoeflinger will spend most of his time on special teams.

The top four receivers from last year return along with two huge tight ends that'll pose matchup problems for just about everyone. There isn't a lot of home run hitting ability, but there are plenty of steady, reliable veterans led by last year's top receiver Levi Dejohnette. There's excitement waiting in the wings in speedy Jarriel Norman along with Kevin Jones, who averaged 20.1 yards per grab last year.
The key to the unit: Getting more deep plays and more scores from the top targets.
Receiver Rating: 4.5

Projected Starters
- Levi Dejohnette, Jr. - 41 catches, 554 yds, 12.9 ypc, 1 TD
The team's leading receiver returns for what should be an All-Sun Belt season. The speedy junior has good speed and reliable hands as a consistent playmaker. For all his catches, 68 in his first two seasons, he only has three touchdown grabs. He has to be more dangerous in the red zone.  

- Kevin Jones, Soph. - 6 catches, 161 yds, 20.1 ypc
The sky's the limit for Jones who'll push hard for playing time after becoming a factor late last year. He had a big spring being named the surprise starter going into fall camp. He isn't big at a rail thin 5-10 and 169 pounds, but he's a top deep threat..

- Tight end David Johnson, Soph.
Johnson stepped in as a true freshman when injuries hit the tight ends and showed fantastic promise. He didn't catch a pass, but he used his 268-pound frame to become a tremendous blocker. Expect him to become a factor in the passing game.

Top Backups
- Gary Vincent, Sr. -15 catches, 186 yds, 11.6 ypc, 1 TD
The veteran has been steady throughout his career, and now he has to make more plays. He's the only senior in the receiving corps and was one of the team's most consistent players throughout last year, but now he has to be a weapon to help take attention away from Levi Dejohnette on the other side. Even though he's only 5-9 and 169 pounds, he's tough across the middle. 
- Joe Smith, Jr. - 18 catches, 326 yds, 18.1 ypc, 4 TD
The 6-4 junior only caught 18 passes, bit he made the most of then with four touchdown grabs over a three-game midseason stretch and some big grabs throughout the season. He led the team in touchdown catches last year and should be used more around the goal line for his height and leaping ability.
- Patrick Higgins
, Jr. - 28 catches, 358 yds, 12.8 ypc, 2 TD
At 6-2 and 184 pounds, Higgins is a much bigger option than Gary Vincent on the inside. He finished second on the team in catches last year and was terrific in Sun Belt play. Oddly enough, he had his worst games against non-conference opponents getting shut out by UT Martin and Southern Miss and only catching one pass against Oklahoma State.
- Jarriel Norman, RFr.
He's the home run hitter the team desperately needs. He's not all that big at 5-9 and 173 pounds, but he has too much speed to keep out of the mix for long.
- Tight end J.T. Jordan, RFr.
Jordan was almost pressed into service last year, but he redshirted and now will join David Johnson to give ASU one of the league's best tight end tandems. He's not going to be the receiver Johnson will be, but he'll be a great blocker used as a third tackle at 261 pounds.

Offensive Linemen
Three starters return to a line that turned into one of the best in the Sun Belt paving the away for 2,318 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns. The pass protection has to improve and there's a major concern about the experience among the reserves, but the starting five should be rock solid led by center Tanner Jenkins and emerging star tackle Matt Mandich. Injured Kyle Koets has to come back healthy to add more to the guard and tackle rotations.

The key to the unit: Quickly develop quality depth and get more production out of the pass protection.
Offensive Line Rating: 5

Projected Starters
- OT Matt Mandich, Soph.
At 6-3 and 282 pounds, Mandich is a long frame using it to turn into a surprisingly decent pass blocker earning second-team All-Sun Belt honors. He's even stronger this season and should generate some next level buzz if he turns into the blocker he's expected to become.
- OG Shawn Shoemake, Soph.
The big sophomore steps into the starting role at right guard. Originally a tackle, the 319-pound sophomore is a physical blocker who saw enough time last year to be a strong starter playing next to Matt Mandich.
- C Tanner Jenkins, Sr.
The star of the line, the 279-pound Jenkins is back for his third year in the middle after earning All-Sun Belt honors last year. He was good enough to have played at bigger D-I schools before choosing ASU, and now he'll finish up his career as one of the school's all-time best linemen. He's a tremendous run blocker and a true anchor for the line.
- OG Matt Reibe, Jr.
Reibe is a natural center, but he moved to guard with Tanner Jenkins firmly entrenched in the middle. He's 6-3 and 300 pounds with a little bit of experience.
- OT Dale Maas, Sr.
The former JUCO transfer is an athletic option at right tackle. He's 6-5, 288 pounds, and has enough experience to be a reliable starter now that he'll get more work.

Top Backups
- T/G Kyle Koets, Soph.
Koets saw starting time and was growing into a key blocker, but he got dinged up and missed spring ball. He'll have to battle his way back into the mix on the right side at both guard and tackle.
- C  Jess McDonald, Sr.
The former JUCO transfer became an immediate key cog on the line. At 303 pounds, he's a big, experienced blocker who's one of the team's strongest players.
- T Zach Eichenberger. Soph.
One of the few backups with experience, Eichenberger will be a key reserve at both tackle spots. He's not huge at 6-4 and 270 pounds, but he's athletic.

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