Looking at the QB Position

Quarterbacks The candidates: Fredi Knighten (5-11, 189) Jr.; Stephen Hogan (6-4, 210) RJr.; Cameron Birse (6-2, 213) RFr.; James Tabary (6-2, 195) Fr.

Fredi Knighten, the hero and Most Valuable Player in the GoDaddy Bowl victory over Ball State, has been running the No. 1 offense most of the preseason camp, just as he did in the spring. He is the only one who has game experience (remember he almost led the Red Wolves to victory in the regular season finale at Western Kentucky, a 34-31 loss). Knighten is 37 of 53 for 259 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. He has also run for 443 yards on 71 carries. Former wide receiver Stephen Hogan, and freshmen Cameron Birse and James Tabary, has also gotten snaps.

ASN analysis:

A return to the hurry-up no-huddle offense is exactly what Knighten needed. If the ASU offense had stuck with the running game of 2013 the QB battle may have taken a different turn. But Knighten is a playmaker, and in the Blake Anderson offense, playmakers are vital. Especially those that can make things happen in space. Knighten has the quickness and elusiveness to turn a zone read keeper into a big play. His legs turn him into a threat that keeps defensive coordinators awake at night. Fredi's ability to roll out of the pocket as things break down, allows him to keep plays alive and make things happen. If he continues to grow as a passer and his ability to read D1 defenses, Knighten's skill set in this offense may have those opposing defensive coordinators seeing nightmares when they finally do close their eyes. Arkansas State needs him to become a mistake free, confident passer and truly provide a dual threat.

The Backups

The ASU coaches have alluded to the fact that, while Knighten must compete every day to earn the right to lead the Red Wolves, the real battle has been for the backup role. Stephen Hogan, Cameron Birse, and James Tabary have all had flashes during preseason camp. They have all also struggled at times.

Hogan has been biding his time for a few years while bouncing back and forth from QB to WR to QB. He has all the physical abilities to win the job with his size and athleticism. An extended stay at the QB position has allowed him to improve his game as a signal caller. Hogan should go into the season as a solid number two and provide stability at the position. Unlike Hogan, Birse has been training at just QB for years. What the two have in common is that both have only started at the position their senior year of high school. Birse is a little more prototypical QB than a dual threat but has good size and a solid arm. The need for both of these returners is improvement in their ability to make good decisions and increased accuracy.

Incoming freshman James Tabary has taken advantage of his opportunities during preseason camp. When the returning QBs didn't perform at the level that was expected and required, Tabary took advantage with solid play. He has the dual threat skills needed in the offense and is not lacking in confidence. The ability to run and a strong arm give him equal footing with the other quarterbacks when all involved are lacking any game experience. But the possibility of red-shirting and having him around for a little longer may be tough to pass up.

The Thoughts

Knighten is expected to take the reigns and ASU fans hope to see a season of play like the 2014 Go Daddy Bowl. Some say he is a "gamer"; turn the lights on and see him shine. Blake Anderson may want a little more consistency than that. If Knighten can provide both, then the offensive side of "fast, physical, fun" will be entertaining for the ASU faithful.

Coach speak:

“Fredi has stayed consistently the number one,” said coach Blake Anderson. “Stephen has done a good job battling with him and has taken some reps with the ones but I think it is pretty clear Fredi is our starter and Stephen has separated himself as the No. 2. There has been constant competition for No. 3 between Cameron Birse and James Tabary. We would prefer to redshirt Tabary and let Cameron continue to develop as the No. 3 and battle for the No. 2 spot."

"Fredi has been the most consistent and is the guy our team wants to follow and he is dynamic. He has a chance to be a dynamic player when it is a live situation when there isn’t a whistle. He is going to benefit from playing live football more than most. When he is live and he can improvise and you have to actually take him to the ground that is something that is part of his game.”