Arkansas State entered the 2014 season with depth concerns on the offensive line. The impact of the problems were felt through the season.
The Red Wolves struggled with line play getting an effective push for the running game. The impact of the problem is best seen by looking at two critical situations for an offensive line. Third down and short and fourth down and short where your opponent is more confident that you may attempt a run and is likely to bring a great deal of pressure. The ability of an offensive line to stand up to that sort of pressure is a good measure of how effective the group is.
I have combed through AState’s 13 games last year to see how effective the Red Wolves were on offense when faced with third down and two or less to a first down or touchdown and the same distance on fourth down when going for a first down rather than kicking.
Arkansas State faced third and very short 43 times in 2014. AState converted for a first down 19 times (44%).
On the third and very short situations AState needed a total of 61 yards and ended up gaining 273 over the course of the season. On average AState gained 6.35 yards on third and short. That sounds very impressive until you realize that just six plays produced 204 of those yards. The other 37 times AState generated 69 yards, an average of 1.86 yards per play. Thirteen times AState was held for no gain or lost yardage (30%).
The Red Wolves had more success converting on fourth and short compared to third and short (50% vs. 44%) converting on eight of 16 fourth and short plays.
AState needed a total of 19 yards on the 16 fourth and short plays and gained 46 yards and average of 2.875 yards per play. However, 34 of the yards came from just three plays. On the other 13 fourth and short situations AState gained a total of 12 yards net (0.92 yards per play). Seven times AState was held for no gain or lost yardage when facing fourth and short (43.75%).
The off-season roster moves at AState to add offensive linemen shows that Coach Anderson and staff have recognized the problem and tried to address it. For 2015 to be a big year, the offensive line will have to take better control of the line of scrimmage.