Arkansas State Indians
Preview 2007 - Offense
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What you need to know:
Run, run and run some more. At least that's what ASU has done
over the last several years, and it has the talent in the
backfield to do it again with speedy quarterback Corey Leonard
leading a loaded group of runners with several great backs to
hand off to. Reggie Arnold is the best of the bunch, but he's
one of just four good options to carry the load. Two problems
with what ASU likes to do. 1. The line needs major revamping
losing three key players and 2) the receiving corps might be the
team's second biggest strength behind the running backs. The
underutilized corps has speed to burn, but Leonard couldn't get
them the ball on a consistent basis last season. That has to
Passing: Corey Leonard
109-222, 1,321 yds, 8 TD, 8 INT
Rushing: Reggie Arnold
209 carries, 1,076 yds, 4 TD
Receiving: Kevin Jones
25 catches, 355 yds, 2 TD
Star of the offense: Sophomore RB Reggie Arnold
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior C
Unsung star on the rise: Junior OT Kyle Koets
Best pro prospect: Arnold
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Arnold, 2) OT Matt
Mandich, 3) WR Levi Dejohnette
Strength of the offense: Receiver speed, running back
Weakness of the offense:
Quarterback accuracy, offensive line depth
Projected Starter: Sophomore Corey Leonard has all the
skills and athleticism to be special, but he needs more time. A
big-time recruit for many schools as a defensive back, he has
excellent speed and phenomenal leaping ability. Now he needs to
find a passing touch after completing just 49% of his throws for
1,321 yards and eight touchdowns and eight interceptions. He ran
for 331 yards and two touchdowns, but he has the ability to
double that once he figures out what he's doing as the
full-time, full-season starter. Running isn't an issue; his
completion percentage is. He connected on fewer than half of his
passes in four games; all losses. The team was 2-5 when he
completed 50% or fewer, and 4-1 when he was over the midway
Projected Top Reserves: 6-1, 210-pound junior
Travis Hewitt split time over the first five games with
Leonard and had an even rougher time moving the offense. He's
mobile, but he doesn't have the speed or moves of Leonard.
Throwing the ball was a disaster completing just 35 of 77 passes
for 414 yards and no touchdowns with seven interceptions. Even
so, he has the skills to potentially lead the offense if Leonard
isn't up to the task. It'll be up to redshirt freshman T.C.
Jennings, another dual-threat player, to be the emergency
Watch Out For ... Leonard to run wild. He has too
much speed and quickness not to run for 500 yards or more.
Strength: Running. Leonard and Hewitt can each
move. They can't necessarily throw on the run, but they can each
make plays with their legs to get out of jams. At least they
have the potential to. They were sacked way too often last
season getting tagged 36 times. It wasn't always the O line's
Weakness: Accuracy. Leonard has to be more
consistent. The running game with the great ASU backfield should
leave the speedy receivers in plenty of one-on-one opportunities
that would make most quarterbacks drool. Last year ASU
quarterbacks combined to finish 117th in the nation in passing
Outlook: Leonard has the potential to make a
night-and-day leap in his overall production. He didn't take
over the No. 1 job for good until the midway point in the year,
and that killed his effectiveness. Now that this is his gig, he
should be more decisive and should utilize his veteran receivers
to hit on more big plays.
Projected Starters: How, exactly, did sophomore Reggie Arnold
not get snapped up by a bigger name program out of high
school? He's a tough 5-9 and 217 pounds with 4.3 speed and the
talent to potential to be the Sun Belt Player of the Year. He
was a superstar as a freshman tearing off 1,076 yards and four
touchdowns averaging 5.1 yards per carry. If anything, he was
underused getting 20 or more carries four times (with ASU going
3-0 when he got more). While not used as a receiver, he has the
open field speed and moves to be dangerous if the passing game
can find a way to get him the ball on the fly.
Opening holes for
Arnold will be 6-1, 227-pound redshirt freshman Danny McNeal,
who has the unenviable task of taking over for longtime running
game stalwart Oren O'Neal. It'll be a shock if he gets more than
five carries on the year.
Projected Top Reserves: Arnold might be the star,
but jitterbug quick 5-6, 182-pound sophomore Cedric Wilkerson
will get more than his share of touches. As a quicker
change-of-pace back, he finished second on the team in rushing
with 362 yards and two touchdowns and third in receiving
catching 16 passes for 103 yards. He even proved he could carry
the workload rushing 23 times for 116 yards against Memphis.
Also back in the fold is senior Chris Easley, a talented
workhorse type of back who hasn't been right since a knee injury
a few years ago. He got hurt again last season and didn't play.
If healthy, he's a fantastic third option to have. He'll have to
battle with redshirt freshman Preston Brown, a talented
5-9, 180-pound speedster who had plenty of other options other
Watch Out For ... even more of a rotation. Arnold can
be a 25-carry-a-game back, but he doesn't need to be with
Wilkerson, Easley and Brown to take the heat off. It'll be
interesting to see if the coaching staff tries to keep Arnold
fresh for the late season stretch run.
Strength: Talent. ASU has four backs that could
start for most Sun Belt teams and four options to keep the
running game going just like it has over the last several years.
Weakness: A pure power runner. There's plenty of
quickness, but unless Easley is back to 100%, there's not a
sure-thing two-yard thunderback to grind out a big first down.
However, Arnold's no wilting flower.
Outlook: There are so many good backs that the
runners alone should be able to shoot for a 2,000-yard season
without the production from the quarterbacks. It won't happen
behind a line that needs work, but this will still be the Sun
Belt's premier running attack with this fantastic group.
Projected Starters: When injuries hit the receiving corps,
junior Kevin Jones stepped up and became the team's
leading receiver finishing with 25 catches for 355 yards and two
touchdowns. Not exactly eye-popping numbers, but they were big
under the circumstances as he became a steady, if not
spectacular, target. He's a thin 5-10 and 169 pounds with enough
deep speed to start making more big plays.
Even with Jones back,
the number one receiver will still be senior Levi Dejohnette,
who finished second on the team with 23 catches for 281 yards
and two touchdowns despite missing two games hurt. With good
speed and great hands, he's been the team's top target since his
freshman year with 91 career grabs for 1,115 yards and five
Junior David Johnson is a 6-2, 268-pound
blocker who can make plays in the passing game when the offense
remembers to use him. He caught 13 passes for 200 yards
highlighted by a 62-yard touchdown play in the win over Troy. He
has All-Sun Belt potential as a do-it-all playmaker for the
Projected Top Reserves: Dejohnette and Jones are
entrenched as the top two receivers, and now they have to be
better than expected with senior Patrick
Higgins booted off the team for off-the-field violations. At 6-2 and 184 pounds, he
much-needed big target who'd have played a bigger role after missing
time last year hurt. He was the team's most dangerous deep threat
averaging 30.7 yards per catch with three scores on just seven
grabs last season.
Behind Dejohnette will be sophomore
Jarriel Norman, a slight 5-9, 173-pound flash of lightning
with some of the best wheels on the team. He was a star Texas
high school state champion sprinter running a 10.6 100 and a
21.4 200, and now that speed has to translate to the football
field after only catching three passes for 23 yards.
205-pound junior Chris Miller is one of the bigger
receivers with the next-level speed that demands getting him
more touches. He caught 13 passes for 132 yards, but his longest
play was only 18 yards.
Sophomore J.T. Jordan is a 6-1,
261-pound bruiser of a tight end with the hands to be more
involved in the passing game. He caught three passes for 26
yards last year.
Watch Out For ... more deep passes if QB Corey
Leonard can get the ball there. There are way too many
speedsters in the lineup to only average 12 yards per catch as a
team. If nothing else, the passing game has to air it out more
just to open things up for the running game.
Strength: Speed, experience and speed. It's not a
bad thing when your backups can blow the doors off the starters
in a sprint. All the depth means there are plenty of fast,
promising options to work with. However ...
Weakness: Can the track stars actually play?
Dejohnette, Jones and Higgins are proven veterans, but even a
running team like ASU should be better than 109th in the nation
throwing the ball.
Outlook: The overall injury problems of last year
are a positive now creating a deep, experienced corps. Everyone
can fly, everyone has experience, and everyone can crank out the
big play. Now can they produce more? The coaching staff has to
invent ways to create more balance with this talented, but
Projected Starters: As one of the only
returning starters, 6-3, 282-pound junior left tackle Matt Mandich
has to be better than ever. The two-time Second Team All-Sun Belt
performer is a decent pass protector and uses his good mobility to be a
top run blocker when on the move. He might not be huge, but he has great
technique and will be the one the offense operates behind.
Kyle Koets will take over for Dale Maas at right tackle, but the
6-4, 292-pounder is a natural guard and could end up moving back inside
if needed. He backed up 6-3, 300-pound right guard Matt Reibe
last season after starting out the year banged up, and now he'll be
one of the keys to the running game. Reibe joins Mandich as the only
other starter to the front line, but he's a good one. The former center
has grown into his role at guard getting good enough to potentially be
in the hunt for all-star honors.
Sophomore Dominic Padrta will
take over Jess McDonald's old spot, but he'll have to fight to keep it.
He bulked up big-time over the last year to get to 288 pounds, and now
he has to prove he can move effectively. The real concern is replacing
all-everything Tanner Jenkins at center. 6-0, 285-pound sophomore
Heath Lockley isn't nearly the same talent as Jenkins, but he's
bigger and has the smarts to be an effective quarterback up front.
Projected Top Reserves: When ASU wants to go
bulky, it'll plug in 6-6, 347-pound senior Vincent Thrower at
right tackle. While he could still push Koets out of a starting job,
he'll have be consistent to do it. The rest of the reserves are up in
the air until fall when all the new recruits arrive.
Mark Clemons, Brandon Ciaramitaro, and Rudy Harrell
will be vital, and they got their feet wet a bit this spring after
getting to school early. The 6-3, 280-pound Ciaramitaro took over the
backup center job and will push hard for the start later this fall.
Clemons is 6-4, 330-pounds, and ridiculously strong. Harrell was
expected to be part of the team last year but had to go the JUCO route
to get his grades up. He's an athletic top recruit who should shine
right away somewhere.
True Freshman Paul Henry was the star of
the recruiting class and could take over a guard spot the second he hits
Watch Out For ... the overall results to be better
than the players. There isn't the Sun Belt star power of last year up
front, but there's more than enough big bodies and decent fill-ins to
patch together a good enough line to keep the rushing production
Strength: Tackles. Mandich is a sure-thing
all-star, while Koets and Thrower can each start at any time. Backup
left tackle Zach Eichenberger has enough experience to be part of the
Weakness: Overall developed depth. The JUCO
transfers should help, but the line, as a whole, needs several new
players to shine right away or the front five will have to be iron men.
Outlook: Not having Jenkins anymore won't help,
but Lockley and Ciaramitaro will fill the void better than ASU fans
might expect. The rest of the line won't be the rock it was last year,
but it won't be bad and should run block almost as well as always. The
pass protection won't be as good even with the strength of the line at