2009 Arkansas State Red Wolves Football Preview
2008 Record: (6-6, 4-3)
2008 Bowl: none
Coach: Steve Roberts (37-47 at Arkansas State, 86-70-1 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Doug Ruse
Defensive Coordinator: Kevin Corless
Other Key Returnees: K Josh Aracuo, S Marcus Brown, LB Darius Glover, DT Bryan Hall, G Drew Hilton, RB Derek Lawson, DT Khari Mays, LB Javon McKinnon, WR Jahbari McLennan, WR Jarriel Norman, G Dominic Padrta, S Evan Van Dolah, CB Daylan Walker
Key Losses: C Brandon Ciaramitaro, OT Mark Clemsons, DE Brian Flagg, TE David Johnson, OT Matt Mandich, LB Ben Owens, CB Dominique Williams
Arkansas State had the second best rushing offense and third best total offense in the Sun Belt Conference during the 2008 campaign. Much of that success can be attributed to the stellar play of the offensive line. Now a majority of the line is gone and the Red Wolves will have to rely on some less experienced players.
Arkansas State's Strengths:
The good news is that most of those less experienced offensive linemen are upperclassmen who have at least seen some playing time. The better news is quarterback Corey Leonard and running back Reggie Arnold are back. Leonard did not put up huge numbers during his junior campaign, but he did throw twice as many touchdowns as interceptions and completed over 54 percent of his passes. Leonard’s ability to scramble and make plays with his legs is what turns him from an average quarterback into a game changer. With Brandon Thompkins and Jahbari McLennan, the top two receivers from a year ago, returning, the passing attack should be in good shape. The ground game is in even better shape thanks to Arnold and backup Derek Lawson. Arnold will be the go-to-guy after tallying 1,074 yards and seven scores on the ground in 2008, but Lawson is an explosive rusher who had a superb freshman campaign.
Arkansas State's Weaknesses:
The Red Wolves defense was solid last year, but there are some big holes to fill. Linebacker Ben Owens was easily the team’s best tackler and cornerback Dominique Williams was a solid number one cornerback who could shut down the opposition’s top receiver. But the defense will still be good, mostly due to the return of Alex Carrington who tallied 10.5 sacks and 19.0 tackles-for-loss from his defensive end position. Fellow end Brian Flagg was not nearly as productive, but now he is gone and Arkansas State will have to find a new end opposite of Carrington or he will be double teamed on every play. Without Owens the linebackers should be alright with the return of Darius Glover and Javon McKinnon, but it remains to be seen if Greg Hardy can effectively replace Owens in the middle of the field.
The Bottom Line for the Red Wolves:
The secondary has a ton of potential if somebody can replace Williams. Cordarious Mingo and Daylan Walker are both seniors and are the probable starting corners and they should get some help from returning safeties M.D. Jennings and Evan Van Dolah. Coach Steve Roberts got the most out of his team in 2008, but statistically speaking the Red Wolves should have done better than a 4-3 conference record. If the offensive line can replace their lost starters, this team should be in the mix for a conference title.
By Joel Welser
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