Arkansas State Preview 2006
Posted Aug 8, 2006

After years of being the team on the verge of big things and never getting over the hump, Arkansas State finally put it all together last year getting the big wins it had to have and got to the New Orleans Bowl as the Sun Belt champions.

Offense | Defense | Depth Chart | Further Analysis

It wasn't a perfect season with losses to UL Monroe and MTSU taking the title fates out of its own hands, but ASU played well at home and was more than competitive against teams like Missouri and Oklahoma State.

Even with all that was accomplished in last year's breakout campaign, there was still a sense that more could've been done. There could've been a better performance in the blowout loss to Army, and the offense could've been way more consistent after an awful midseason stretch scoring 29 points in four games.

This year will see some growing pains in the backfield, but there are more than enough good things to count on to keep ASU in the Sun Belt title hunt all season long. As far as Sun Belt star power goes, ASU has it with center Tanner Jenkins, fullback Oren O'Neal, safety Tyrell Johnson and linebacker Josh Williams, who returns after being suspended all of last year, all good enough to be considered among the best in the nation at their respective positions.

Head coach: Steve Roberts 
5th year: 20-28
13th year: 69-61-1
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 21, Def. 24, ST 1
Lettermen Lost: 15
Ten Best ASU Players
1. LB Josh Williams, Jr.
2. SS Tyrell Johnson, Jr.
3. FS Khyyam Burns, Jr.
4. FB Oren O'Neal, Sr.
5. C Tanner Jenkins, Sr.
6. OT Matt Mandich, Soph.
7. LB Devrett Wade, Sr.
8. WR Levi Dejohnette, Jr.
9. RB Reggie Arnold, RFr.
10. DT Jamarrow James, Jr.

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction: coming

9/2 Army
9/9 Oklahoma St
9/23 at SMU
9/30 at FIU
10/7 UL Monroe
10/14 at Memphis
10/21 North Texas
10/28 at Florida Atlantic
11/4 at Auburn
11/11 MTSU
11/18 at Troy
11/25 at UL Lafayette

2005 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 4-7
2005 Record: 6-6

Preview 2005 predicted wins

9/3 at Missouri L 44-17
9/10 UT Martin W 56-7
9/17 at Oklahoma St L 20-10
9/24 FIU W 66-24
10/1 at UL Monroe L 31-27
10/15 UL Lafayette W 39-36
10/22 Fla Atlantic W 3-0 OT
11/5 at MTSU L 45-7
11/12 Troy W 9-3
11/19 at Army L 38-10
11/26 at North Texas W 31-24
11/26 New Orleans Bowl
Southern Miss L 31-19

Now for the problems. The great backfield has to be replaced losing effective running backs Antonio Warren and Shermar Bracey along with veteran starting quarterback Nick Noce. The corners and defensive ends are suspect, and the kicking game is starting from scratch looking for a steady field goal kicker. Even so, there's enough time before the first Sun Belt game for everyone to get their feet wet, and there's not a brutal game leading up the to the road trip to FIU playing Army, Oklahoma State and at SMU that should impede the team's overall development.

So now Arkansas State has to try to become the new North Texas and be a yearly participant in the New Orleans Bowl. Head coach Steve Roberts has the program on the right track and he has the talent to be the best team in the league with a little bit of luck. ASU got a taste of success last year with its first non-losing season since 1995, and that could be just the beginning. 

The Schedule: There aren't any brutal, sure thing 55-0 blowout games until late against Auburn, but it's not a good schedule for hopes of repeating as Sun Belt champions with four road trips in the final five weeks closing out at Troy and at UL Lafayette. There are only four true home games with the Oklahoma State battle played in Little Rock, and ASU has to take advantage of every one of them. Fortunately UL Monroe, North Texas and MTSU have to come to Jonesboro.

Best Offensive Player: Senior FB Oren O'Neal. Center Tanner Jenkins is also in the mix and running back Chris Easley should put up the numbers to be one of the team's offensive stars, but O'Neal is the unsung cog that makes the machine go. He's an NFL-caliber blocker with good hands and decent power running skills when he gets the chance.

Best Defensive Player: Junior LB Josh Williams. Tackling machine safety Tyrell Johnson is also worthy of mention, but the 255-pound Williams is a big-time talent and tone setter for a run defense that desperately missed him last year when he was suspended for conduct detrimental to the team.

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore QB Travis Hewitt and redshirt freshman Corey Leonard. Nick Noce might not have been the best quarterback around, but he was effective and he often came through last year when he absolutely had to. Hewitt has a little bit of experience, but Leonard has more talent. One has to shine from the get go.

The season will be a success if ... Arkansas State wins the Sun Belt title again. It'll be hard with the killer league road slate late, but there's no turning down the expectations after last year. This team should be able to beat anyone in the conference, but it needs everything to come together early on to make it happen and there can't be any home losses.

Key game: November 18th at Troy. Assuming ASU can be perfect at home, it has to beat Troy on the road to make the regular season finale at UL Lafayette meaningful. An unbeaten Sun Belt record is possible going into this showdown.

2005 Fun Stats: 
- Second quarter scoring: Opponents 128 - Arkansas State 51
- Penalties: Arkansas State 121 for 911 yards - Opponents 93 for 733 yards
- Time of possession: Opponents 32:04 - Arkansas State 27:57

The Last Time Arkansas State…
…played in a bowl game…2005 (New Orleans Bowl vs. Southern Miss)
…missed a bowl game…2004
…pitched a shutout…2005 (Florida Atlantic)
…was shutout…2003 (Utah State)
…scored 50 points…2005 (Florida International)
…went undefeated…1975
…won a conference title…2005 (Sun Belt)
…had a 3,000-yard passer…never
…had a 1,000-yard rusher…2005 (Antonio Warren)
…had a 1,000-yard receiver…2000 (Robert Kilow)
…had a first-round draft choice…never

Related Stories
Arkansas State Preview 2006 - Offense
 -by  Aug 8, 2006
Arkansas State Preview 2006 Further Analysis
 -by  Aug 8, 2006
Arkansas State Preview 2006 - Depth Chart
 -by  Aug 8, 2006

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