2010 Arkansas State Preview
Arkansas State OT Derek Newton
Arkansas State OT Derek Newton
Posted Jul 20, 2010

CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Arkansas State Red Wolves

Arkansas State Red Wolves

Preview 2010

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Steve Roberts
9th year: 41-55
17th year overall: 90-88-1 Returning Lettermen:
Off. 26, Def. 26, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 25
Ten Best Arkansas State Players
1. LB Demario Davis, Jr.
2. FS M.D. Jennings, Sr.
3. SS Kelcie McCray, Jr.
4. OT Derek Newton, Sr.
5. RB Derek Lawson, Jr.
6. QB Ryan Aplin, Soph.
7. DT Bryan Hall, Sr.
8. LB Javon McKinnon, Sr.
9. OG Sifa Etu, Sr.
10. DE Brandon Joiner, Jr.
2010 Schedule

Sept. 4 at Auburn
Sept. 11 Louisiana
Sept. 18 ULM
Sept. 25 at Troy
Oct. 2 Louisville
Oct. 9 at North Texas
Oct. 16 at Indiana
Oct. 23 Florida Atlantic
Nov. 2 MTSU
Nov. 13 WKU
Nov. 20 at Navy
Nov. 27 at FIU

Arkansas State was hit with a nasty schedule last season and few breaks, and it showed.

Playing at Nebraska and Iowa didn't help the cause, and having to go on the road to play the four best teams in the Sun Belt (Troy, Middle Tennessee, ULM, and Florida Atlantic) was also an issue. But for a program that should be hitting its stride at this point under head coach Steve Roberts, the scheduling really shouldn't have been a problem.

The Red Wolves haven't exactly capitalized on their special 2005 season, when the found their way into the New Orleans Bowl, but they've been just good enough to suggest that it might not take too much tweaking to be really, really good.

Last year's defense turned out to be the best in the Sun Belt, but the offense managed to throw 61 on the board in the opener against Mississippi Valley State and 211 over the final 11 games. ASU managed to push Iowa in a 24-21 loss and suffered a tough 30-27 loss to eventual Sun Belt champ, Troy, but couldn't come up with the big plays at the right time throughout the year and ended up losing five games by eight points or fewer. The hope has to be that a little more luck and a few more breaks would've turned two of those close losses into wins, and ASU would've come away with a nice 6-6 season, and the hope has to be that this year's team can find a bit more explosion on offense and timely plays on defense.

The offensive line has the potential to be among the best in the Sun Belt, the receiving corps is young and inexperienced, but fast, and Derek Lawson leads a good backfield that should put up big rushing numbers. The defense has no excuse to not be among the league leaders again with a great-looking front seven (even with only one starter returning on the line), and a promising secondary with speed on the outside and talented veterans at safety. But can that be enough?

Probably not.

ASU has too many holes to be considered a major threat to Middle Tennessee and Troy, but unlike last year, the Sun Belt schedule is favorable, there's tremendous depth and upside across the board, and under Roberts, the idea of a 4-8 season isn't going to be tolerated. This is a .500 team, if not better, and it should be able to be a player in the Sun Belt race again if everything goes the right way. After last year, the team is due.

What to watch for on offense: The no-huddle. ASU has owned one of the most devastating running games in the Sun Belt over the last few seasons, but there wasn't enough pop down the field in the passing game last year and the ground game was stopped cold way too often. The run will hardly be scrapped, but this year the offense will rely on more up-tempo play and a faster pace in order to try to exploit the mismatches and generate more big plays.

What to watch for on defense: The rotation on the defensive front. Three starters are gone including all-star end Alex Carrington, but ASU rotates its players so much that the turnover shouldn't hurt that badly. Most of the players who need to play bigger roles have more than enough time logged to know what they're doing, but the key to the D, and the season, should be the ability to generate a consistent pass rush again from the outside. The coaching staff will rotate eight players with regularity to try to find the right combination.

The team will be far better if … The offense can convert a third down chance. ASU's was miserable at keeping the chains moving on key downs converting a disastrous 33% of its third down chances. Everyone sold out to stop the run and the quarterbacks didn't do enough to make defenses pay. This year, QB Ryan Aplin or Phillip Butterfield must connect on more downfield throws just to show that they can, and they have to be cool under fire and use the veteran tight end Kedric Murry and the good young receivers so everyone can stay on the field.

The schedule: Last year the schedule was brutal with ASU having to go on the road for all the tough Sun Belt games. Now it's payback time, right? Not quite. The non-conference slate isn't awful after the season opener at Auburn, with Louisville, at Indiana, and at Navy all winnable on the right day, but the Red Wolves still have to go to Troy and to Louisiana-Lafayette as part of a tough start with three of the first four games on the road. Florida Atlantic and Middle Tennessee have to come to Jonesboro during the key part of the slate starting October 23 at home against the Owls and ending November 13th against Western Kentucky. Going on the road to deal with North Texas and FIU isn't all that bad.

Best offensive player: Junior RB Derek Lawson. He has always produced when give the chance, but Reggie Arnold monopolized most of the running work leaving little room for others last year. Lawson should be the feature-back in the no-huddle attack with the size and toughness to run inside and the speed and quickness to be a star for the passing attack.

Best defensive player: Junior LB Demario Davis. The D could really use one of the corners to be a star and needs safety M.D. Jennings to come back healthy from a knee injury, but for now, Davis is the leader and the team's top defensive playmaker from the strongside. He has good size, a nice burst, and can get into the backfield on one play and chase down a runner the next.

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore QB Ryan Aplin. There will be a fight for the starting job with last year's big recruit, Phillip Butterfield, getting a shot, but Aplin was the starter at the end of last year and proved he could be the type of dual-threat playmaker who could shine in the new offensive style. There are holes here and there, especially on the special teams, but the team is generally solid. If the quarterbacks don't shine, though, there's a hard ceiling on how good this year can be.

The season will be a success if … ASU goes 7-5 and is in the Sun Belt title hunt. This isn't a good enough team to win the championship, but there's no excuse to not shoot for more than six wins. There can't be mistakes at home against ULM, Florida Atlantic, or Western Kentucky, and beating North Texas and FIU on the road will be a must. That's five wins the team has to count on, and then there will have to be a few upsets along the way.

Key game: Sept. 11 at Louisiana-Lafayette. The Ragin' Cajuns pulled off a 21-18 win that all but sunk the ASU season in early November. This year, it's the Sun Belt opener and a must-win for each team in what amount to an elimination game on September 11th. ASU gets ULM at home to follow and has to hope to be 2-0 in conference play before dealing with a trip to Troy.

2009 Fun Stats:
- Penalties: Arkansas State 91 for 721 yards – Opponents 75 for 591 yards
- Interception return average: ASU 27.9 yards – Opponents 7.9 yards
- Fourth quarter scoring: Arkansas State 85 – Opponents 50

- 2010 Arkansas State Preview | 2010 Arkansas State Offense
- 2010 Arkansas State Defense | 2010 Arkansas State Depth Chart
- Arkansas State Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006