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2009 Arkansas State Preview - Offense
Arkansas State WR Brandon Thompkins
Arkansas State WR Brandon Thompkins
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted May 16, 2009


CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Arkansas State Red Wolves Offense

Arkansas State Red Wolves

Preview 2009 - Offense

- 2009 CFN Arkansas State Preview | 2009 ASU Offense
-
2009 ASU Defense | 2009 ASU Depth Chart
- 2008 ASU Preview |
2007 ASU Preview | 2006 ASU Preview 

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.

Returning Leaders
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 Kiano Prater
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

Quarterbacks

Projected Starter
:
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 to 60%.
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 shots.
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.
Rating: 7


Running Backs

Projected Starters: 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.

Junior Jeff 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 400 meters.

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 Tennessee.
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 week out.
Rating: 7.5

Receivers

Projected Starters: 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 athleticism.

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.

JUCO 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.

While J.T. 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 one-on-one coverage.

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 year.
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.
Rating: 5.5

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: 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.

Along 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 if needed.

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.
Rating: 5