Arkansas State Red Wolves
Preview 2009 - Offense
2009 CFN Arkansas
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2009 ASU Offense
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What you need to know: The
backfield will be the best in the Sun Belt and the receiving
corps will be the fastest in the league, but it could all come
apart if the line isn't strong. Three key starters, including
both tackles, have to be replaced from a line that struggled in
pass protection but blasted away for the ground game. Corey
Leonard will be one of the nation's most productive dual-threat
quarterbacks, but he has to be more consistent, while RB Reggie
Arnold has Sun Belt Player of the Year potential. Backup running
back Derek Lawson would be a 1,000-yard rusher if he was the
starter. The receiving corps won't make a ton of catches, but
it's lighting fast, experienced, and will stretch the field.
Passing: Corey Leonard
166-306, 2,347 yds, 16 TD, 8 INT
Rushing: Reggie Arnold
197 carries, 1,074 yds, 7 TD
Receiving: Brandon Thompkins
32 catches, 511 yds, 2 TD
Star of the offense:
Senior RB Reggie Arnold
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior OT
Unsung star on the rise: Senior TE Trevor Gillott
Best pro prospect: Arnold
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Arnold, 2) QB Corey
Leonard, 3) WR Brandon Thompkins
Strength of the offense: Running game, Receiver speed
Weakness of the offense:
Pass protection, Line depth
Senior Corey Leonard has
done it all for the ASU offense over the last three seasons, but
he's about to be in Sun Belt Player of the Year discussion if
this offseason was any indication. A superior dual-threat
playmaker, he threw for 2,346 yards and ran for 516 showing off
his combination of a big arm and great speed. He hasn't always
been accurate, completing 54% of his throws last season with 16
touchdowns and eight interceptions, and with 40 career touchdown
passes with 31 picks, and he's not big at 6-1 and 207 pounds,
but he's a gamer. When he gets hot, the attack is all but
unstoppable. Now he has to do it on a consistent basis. Case in
point, he lit up Florida Atlantic last season, but he struggled
the week after against a bad North Texas team. Of his 16
touchdown passes, four came against Texas Southern and and ten
came in three games.
Projected Top Reserves: While he hasn't taken the
No. 2 job and made it his, 6-1, 213-pound redshirt freshman
Ryan Aplin has the quickness and the dynamic
playmaking potential to be a weapon to get excited about for
next year. The dual-threat playmaker out of Tampa is a faster
clone of Corey Leonard's style.
6-1, 213-pound redshirt
freshman Andre Smith will be the third man in
the mix, but barely. He's a far better runner than a passer and
could use time to get more accurate and more consistent. He can
do a little of everything well and could be used at a different
position just to get his athleticism on the field.
Watch Out For ... Leonard to be fantastic. He's
always been good, but he runs hot and cold. This spring, he
showed more zip on his passes and was in total command of the
offense. His completion percentage, never a plus, will now get
Strength: Mobility. There isn't a drop-back passer
who'll sit back and bomb away, but Leonard, Aplin, and Smith are
all going to give defensive coordinators headaches. Leonard and
Aplin are passers who can run; they have to be prepared for
differently than most running quarterbacks.
Weakness: Backup experience. There isn't any. If
Aplin is needed, he'll come up with a big rushing game or two
early on, but it'll be vital to get the young reserves key
minutes as soon as possible considering Leonard always takes big
Outlook: Leonard got to another level last season,
and now he appears ready to become special. He's a fantastic
leader for the veteran offense and will do a great job of
getting everyone involved. If all goes well, Leonard starts
every game and 2009 becomes a season-long job interview between
Aplin and Smith for 2010.
SEC teams are still kicking
themselves for missing out on senior Reggie Arnold,
a 5-9, 219-pound senior with 3,210 career rushing yards, 20
touchdowns, and two more scores as a receiver. He has gone three
straight years with over 1,000 yards, running for 1,074 yards
and seven scores last season averaging 5.5 yards per carry, and
he stays healthy, he's a mortal lock to be just the eighth back
in NCAA history to go over 1,000 in four straight seasons.
Blessed with 4.3 speed to go along with his size, he can run
inside and he can tear off big runs when he gets to the outside.
While he has to stay healthy, he has had shoulder problems in
the past, he's tough and consistent. The coaching staff got him
plenty of work throughout the year, but he was saved until late
getting 20 carries more in a three-game November stretch after
running more than 20 times just once in the season-opening win
over Texas A&M. This year, he'll get the ball all the time and
will be used even more as a receiver.
Blake only ran for four yards and a touchdown and
caught five passes for 25 yards, but the 5-10, 239-pound junior
is a battering ram of a blocker and rock-solid in pass
protection. He'll get the ball only to cross up defenses and
will never be a regular part of the offense, but he's invaluable
at helping to make everything go.
Projected Top Reserves:
Ready to step up and take over whenever
needed is Derek Lawson, who could make a case
as the Sun Belt's second best back behind Reggie Arnold.
Fantastic whenever he has the ball in his hands, the 5-11,
214-pound sophomore has always been good in practice and he came
up with a nice first season with 695 yards and four touchdowns
averaging a whopping 7.2 yards per carry. He ripped up Texas
Southern for 209 yards and a touchdown, but it was Arnold's show
from then on. His workload diminished as the season went on, but
he'll get he ball in a variety of ways.
Originally a safety, 6-0, 193-pound redshirt freshman
Don Jones will be a third rushing option in the mix. He
ran for 1,853 yards and 22 score as a high school senior, and
while Arnold and Lawson are fast, Jones is next-level fast. He
was the Alabama state high school champion in the 100, 200, and
Behind Blake at fullback is sophomore Jermaine
Robertson, a promising 5-11, 230-pound sophomore who was a
good, willing blocker when he got his chance and a decent
runner. He'll be used more to carry the ball than Blake, getting
46 yards on eight carries in his limited time
Watch Out For ... Arnold to hit the 1,000-yard mark
... but he'll have to split time. He'll be the workhorse with
the coaching staff making sure he's the main man for the ground
game, but he has always lost carries to QB Corey Leonard and
he'll be certain to lose work to Lawson again.
Strength: Speed. All the backs can move. Really
move. It'll be interesting to see if Arnold gets to go to
Indianapolis for the NFL Combine; he could be a workout star.
Lawson is fast, and Jones is really fast.
Weakness: Consistency. Considering all the rushing
options, ASU should've gone over the 200-yard mark more. The
offense was unstoppable in the first few games, but after
rolling for 441 yards and five touchdowns against Texas
Southern, ASU came up with just three 200-yard rushing games in
the final ten. ASU was 2-5 when it went under 100 yards, with
the only win coming when Corey Leonard bombed away on Middle
Outlook: The running game, helped by QB Corey
Leonard, cranked out an impressive 2,440 yards and 19
touchdowns, and there's no reason to think ASU can't do it
again. Arnold and Lawson form a devastating 1-2 punch, while
there are several good backs waiting in the wings to show what
they can do. Blake might be the Sun Belt's best fullback. As
good as this group is, the ground game has to work week in and
Senior Brandon Thompkins caught fewer passes
last season, making 32 grabs after making 41 in 2007, but he
made them count averaging 16 yards per catch, as opposed to 12.3
two yards ago, with two touchdowns. A decent kick returner as
well as the team's leading receiver, he has excellent breakaway
speed to go along with all of his experience in the offense, At
5-9 and 180 pounds, he's not all that big, but he's durable at
the outside W position.
Back to his spot at the Y is
Jahbari McLennan, who came in from Trinity
Valley CC and tied for the team lead in catches with 32 going
for 451 yards and a score. At 5-11 and 188 pounds, he's one of
the team's bigger targets, even if he's not exactly a physical
receiver, and he has a good combination of speed and
Taking over for David Johnson, who led the
team with five touchdown catches, at tight end will be
J.T. Jordan. The spotlight is on the 6-1, 274-pound
senior, who isn't going to be much of a receiver but is a whale
of a blocker for the running game. He only caught three passes
for 29 yards and a touchdown, and while his role will increase,
he won't be Johnson.
Projected Top Reserves: Senior Jarriel
Norman was supposed to step in and become the team's
No. 1 target going into last year, but he was a key reserve
instead catching 12 passes for 197 yards as Jahbari McLennan's
backup. One of the team's fastest players and best all-around
athletes, 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 more to the football field.
5-10, 183-pound senior Taylor Clements was a
star for Butte College in California and was a slight
disappointment making seven catches for 74 yards. While he was a
great recruit for the program and was expected to do more, he's
a great athlete with enough experience to do more.
transfer Lucious Henderson is a blazer who
could make an impact in a variety of ways. A star high school
sprinter, he's versatile enough to play in the secondary if he's
not a receiver early on with 4.4 speed and excellent upside.
True freshman Allen Muse might be in his
first year, but he's a matured player having started for four
years in high school and producing each year. Smart, tough, and
big, the 6-4, 205-pounder got some interest from LSU and Ole
Miss and was going to be a part of last year's ASU team but was
hurt. He'll join 6-4, 200-pound redshirt freshman Taylor
Stockemer, a big-time talent and a fantastic recruit
for ASU, as big new targets to work with.
Jordan is the blocking tight end, 6-2, 218-pound senior
Trevor Gillott is more of a receiver. He finished third
on the team in receptions two years ago and was fifth last
season with 15 grabs for 228 yards and two touchdowns. With nice
hands and good downfield speed, he can be a big playmaker in
Watch Out For ... the youngsters. While there are
plenty of veteran players who'll take up most of the attention,
the two best players are likely Muse and Stockemer. There's a
chance they could take over starting roles by the end of the
Strength: Speed. ASU got a lot better last season
at using the wheels to hit more home runs averaging 14 yards per
grab after averaging under 12 yards per catch in 2007. This is
going to be one of the fastest receiving corps in the Sun Belt,
and easily among the most dangerous.
Weakness: Scoring. It's part of the design of the
offense with the running game taking center stage, but there
aren't many touchdown makers in the mix. The wide receivers came
up with a mere four touchdown grabs.
Outlook: With QB Corey Leonard getting better and
better, the receivers should start to do more. This is a
fantastic situation with experience, depth, and lots and lots of
speed. There isn't a lot of size, but that's not a huge deal,
and there won't be too many throws to go around. However, this
group will make the most of the plays they get.
Gone is four-time all-star Matt Mandich
at left tackle, and in steps Kiano Prater, a 6-3,
292-pound senior who came from San Bernardino Valley College and was a
key backup. He's athletic, smart, and good enough to be a decent
fill-in, even if he's not Mandich.
The other huge loss from the
offensive front is Mark Clemons, an All-Sun Belt performer at right
tackle. 6-5, 313-pound senior Derek Newton was a key
backup last year after coming over from Hinds CC. While he's not the
most agile blocker, he's a big body for the running game who should be
able to dominate for stretches.
Taking over for starting center
Brandon Ciaramitaro will be Tom Castilaw, a 6-3,
297-pound junior who has seen a little bit of time in his three years in
the system and is expected to step in and shine right away. He knows
what he's doing.
6-4, 312-pound senior Dominic Padrta
was a key starter at left guard last season, getting the
starting call in ten games, and was great for the ground game. After
bulking up big time since his arrival, he's a strong interior blocker
who got steadier as a pass protector as the year went on.
with Padrta, the other returning starter to the line is Drew
Hilton, a 6-3, 302-pound junior who started seven times. A good
recruit a few years ago who had interest from places like LSU and
Arkansas, he's tough and athletic, and now he's about to become one of
the team's best all-around blockers.
Projected Top Reserves: JUCO transfer Sifa
Etu could quickly turn out to be the team's best all-around
lineman. The 6-1, 305-pound junior from California was recruited by
Miami and is a tough inside blocker who'll get a long look at one of the
guard spots. He'll likely start out behind Drew Hilton at right guard,
but he could play on either side.
6-3, 306-pound junior
Alfred Louis is a good athlete and a veteran run blocker who
started two games. While he'll start out behind Dominic Padrta at left
guard, he could play either guard spot and could move outside to tackle
Watch Out For ... Etu. Guard is the one area the Red
Wolves are set, but Etu is too talented to keep off the field. He'll be
in the rotation early on if he can't pull off one of the starting job.
Strength: Run blocking. It doesn't matter who's on
the ASU front five; this is going to be a big, tough line that will
blast away for the ground game. Everyone checks in at around 300 pounds
or more and everyone can hit. The coaching staff has put together this
line by specific design.
Weakness: Talent level. Last year's concern was a
lack of experience, and now it's a lack of experience and sure-thing
talent. With all-stars in Matt Mandich and Mark Clemons gone, it's going
to take a lot of work to find the same run production.
Outlook: The last two lines have been inconsistent
and lousy in pass protection. Part of the problem is the attack with
Corey Leonard a mobile quarterback who gets hit behind the line when
he's trying to make things happen, but the pass blocking is an issue.
It'll be an even bigger problem with two new tackles taking over and
little experienced depth. As always, the run blocking won't be a problem.