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.
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
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
- 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.
- 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
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
Running Back Rating: 5
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- Joe Smith, Jr. - 18 catches, 326 yds, 18.1 ypc, 4
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.
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
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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