Arkansas State Red Wolves
Head Coach: Blake Anderson
2014 record: 7-6 overall, 5-3 Sun Belt
2014 Postseason results: Lost to Toledo 63-44 in the GoDaddy Bowl
2015 returning starters: 9 offense, 4 defense
Odds to win 2016 College Football Championship game: 9900/1
Odds to win 2015 Sun Belt title: +450
Regular season wins: over 7 -130 /under 7 +110
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The Arkansas State Red Wolves have been regular visitors to Mobile, Alabama in early January. The Red Wolves have played in the GoDaddy Bowl in the city for four straight seasons. Last year, the Red Wolves went 7-6 and 5-3 in the Sun Belt. Arkansas State would lose to Toledo 63-44 in the bowl game.
Thirteen starters are back for second year coach Blake Anderson, including 9 on offense. The Red Wolves are expected to compete for the Sun Belt title with Appalachian State, Georgia Southern and UL-Lafayette.
Arkansas State averaged 477 yards per game on offense including 261 passing and 216 rushing yards. The Red Wolves were in the top 40 or better nationally in all three categories. ASU averaged 37 points a game last year and were #18 nationally. Nine starters are back for co-coordinators Walt Bell and glen Elarbee.
Senior quarterback Fredi Knighten is back for ASU. He completed 62.3% of his passes for 3,277 yards with 24 touchdowns and 7 interceptions, and also rushed for 779 yards on 211 carries with 11 touchdowns. Freshman James Tabary will serve as the back-up.
Senior running back Michael Gordon is back for the Red Wolves. He had 159 carries for 1,100 yards with 13 touchdowns, along with 25 catches for 191 yards and a touchdown despite missing two games because of injury. Sophomore Johnston White is also back after rushing for 514 yards on 95 carries with 6 touchdowns, and also caught a touchdown pass. Sophomores Terrance Hollingsworth and Brandon Byner will also get some carries.
Including Gordon, the top six receivers are back for the Red Wolves. Tres Houston had 53 catches for 685 yards with 4 touchdowns, and also threw a touchdown pass to Knighten. Dijon Paschal had 37 catches for 642 yards and 4 touchdowns. J.D. McKissic had 52 catches for 629 yards, and rushed for 115 yards on 9 carries with a touchdown. The senior battled injuries last year but combined for 185 catches and 9 touchdowns in his first two years with the program as a freshman and sophomore. Booker Mays had 20 catches for 325 yards and 4 touchdowns. Tight end Darion Griswold had 18 catches for 221 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Three starters are back on the offensive line. Tackles Jemar Clark and Colton Jackson return as well as center Devin Mondie. Anderson has said the line needs to be more physical in short yardage situations.
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Arkansas State allowed 421 yards per game on defense, including 216 passing and 205 rushing yards. The rush defense was #103 nationally out of 128 teams. Arkansas State gave up 7 rushing touchdowns to Toledo in the bowl loss. ASU allowed 31 points a game last year. Only four starters are back for coordinator Joe Cauthen but the Red Wolves brought in a bunch of transfers and recruits to shore up the defense.
Defensive tackle Robert Mondie transferred from UAB when they disbanded the program after last season. His brother Devin is the starting center for ASU. JUCO transfers Waylon Roberson and Jake Swalley will also add depth to the tackles along with holdover Chuks Ota. Both starting ends Chris Stone and Ja’Von Rolland-Jones are back after combining for 15.5 sacks last season.
Linebacker Xavier Woodson was second on the team in tackles last year with 95 including 9 for loss and 4 sacks. Quanterio Heath replaces Qushaun Lee who was All-Sun Belt last year. Lee had 110 tackles and 4 interceptions last year.
Officially safety Money Hunter is the only returning starter in the secondary. However, Chris Humes and Charleston Girley were at the top of the depth chart at safety before injuries sidelined them for the season early last year. Rocky Hayes and Blaise Taylor will start at the corners. Hayes could have All-Sun Belt potential.
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Luke Ferguson serves as both the kicker and punter. However, he is more consistent at punter averaging 41 yards per punt with 22 inside the 20 yard line. He missed six extra points and was only 8/15 on field goals. He will have to compete for the kicking job with a group of freshmen and JUCO transfers. Taylor will return punts and took one to the house last year. Hayes will return kicks.
Arkansas State has a very difficult September schedule with road trips to USC and a bowl rematch at Toledo. The Red Wolves also host Missouri and Missouri State. October brings home games against Idaho, UL-Lafayette and Georgia State, and a road game at South Alabama. In November, ASU has three straight road games at Appalachian State, UL-Monroe and New Mexico State, before the regular season finale at home against Texas State.
The offense should still be explosive, but there are a lot of questions on defense. With such a difficult schedule I can’t see more than 7 wins though. I think the Red Wolves return to bowl, perhaps even a fifth straight trip to Mobile.
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