Spring practice questions
1. Who is the quarterback? The Red Wolves have used three quarterbacks in the past six seasons and the winner of the position struggle this spring (and fall) could hold the job for the next three seasons. The top candidates are redshirt sophomore James Tabary, who is 2-1 as a starter, and highly touted transfer Justice Hansen, who began his career at Oklahoma. Tabary (65 of 105, 788 yds, 4 TDs, 6 Int) struggled at times but his freshmen numbers compare favorably with Ryan Aplin. Hansen brings a big arm and running ability into the fray.
2. How do the new coaches mesh? Well there isn’t a new head coach but there are plenty of new faces on the Red Wolves’ offense. Buster Faulkner takes over as offensive coordinator, Allen Rudolph as offensive line coach and Norvall McKenzie as running backs coach. Luke Paschall (receivers) and Dan Dodd (tight ends) are the holdovers. While there are changes there will be little change, if any, in the playbook but perhaps a bigger appreciation of first downs over big plays. Rudolph made the jump from FCS to professional football and A-State is actually his first FBS job. Faulkner has worked with defensive coordinator Joe Cauthen and the Red Wolves’ DC actively recruited Faulkner to Jonesboro.
3. Who replaces all those receivers? There are some talented newcomers on this roster but there is also a lot of players missing (JD McKissic, Tres Houston, Darion Griswold) who caught a lot of passes (101/14 TDs) last seasons. Cameron Echols-Luper and 6-foot-5 Justin McInnis are the two newcomers who will go through practice, even though CEL was on the roster last year. Chris Booker reports in the summer and Kendall Sanders can do individual but no team workouts until summer. Dijon Paschall (28/541/19.3/3 TDs) and Chris Murray (11/187) are top holdovers from last year.
4. Who becomes offensive line depth? By now we all now the issue facing the Red Wolves in 2017 when just about all of the offensive line will be gone. So while Daniel Keith is the only underclassmen looking for a job, the key here is getting RFr Dalton Ford, RFr Cam Davis, RSo Jamal Fontenot and others ready for key backup duties this season.
5. Who replaces Luke Ferguson? The year Luke Ferguson had (42.71 per kick/33 inside 20/47 return yards) just might be the best ever by an Arkansas State kicker. Damon Foncham and Hunter Holmes are the top candidates for the spring but we expect the field to be a lot more crowded in the fall.
6. Who replaces Darion Griswold? Over the past three seasons Big Griz has logged a lot of plays for the Red Wolves. His improvement in blocking was an impact on the running game this past season. Warren Leaphart takes over the lead role with letterman Jonah Hill and converted wide out Blake Mack as challengers.
7. Finding time on the D-Line. Coach Brian Early has a lot of players up front and it could get even more complicated if Robert Mondie is granted another season. Throw in Dee Liner and what was such as disaster two seasons ago might be the strongest position on the team.