The Arkansas State football team is just over halfway through its spring camp and used its eighth practice Saturday morning at Centennial Bank Stadium to hold an extended full-contact scrimmage that featured approximately 120 plays.
“We’ve got to go back and dissect (the film) and see where we can get better in every phase,” said A-State head coach Blake Anderson following the scrimmage. “I thought we did some good things on both sides. We obviously had some good plays on offense, and I thought the defense played with a lot of effort and energy. We didn’t have any turnovers, and I know (defensive coordinator) Joe (Cauthen) will tell you we have to find a way to create a turnover or two, but for the offense to not have one in our first true situational football was a great step on that side of the ball.”
Today’s scrimmage saw the offense score six touchdowns, although half of them started at the defense’s 25-yard line. Sophomore Sawyer Williams also connected on a pair of field goals from 22 and 36 yards out.
Junior quarterback Justice Hansen, a 2016 Honorable Mention All-Sun Belt Conference selection, was responsible for a six yard touchdown run and also connected with sophomore receiver Chauncey Mason for a five-yard score. Redshirt freshman quarterback Logan Bonner added three touchdown passes, including a 10-yard completion to senior wideout Christian Booker, a 21-yard pass to senior receiver Chris Murray and a 25-yard score to senior All-Sun Belt tight end Blake Mack.
Junior running back Logan Moragne also reached the end zone on a six-yard rushing attempt. The offense was able to record several explosive plays as well, including three completions from Hansen to Murray, senior tight end Jonah Hill and junior receiver Justin McInnis that covered at least 24 yards and up to 35. Bonner had a 22-yard completion to Murray and found Mack for 21 yards.
“I thought we played physical at times and that was the best thing,” Anderson said about the offense. “We had some tempo at times, and you could tell we were trying, but I think we still have a lot of work to do there. We had too many drops and two or three snaps that were low and made it unplayable, so there were too many unforced errors. Those were opportunities to stay ahead of the chains and create some momentum and tempo where we derailed drives. Some of that was out of immaturity and some of it out of just poor technique. We didn’t fumble and we didn’t throw any picks, so we ran probably 110 or 120 plays without a turnover, which is huge. That is probably the first step to be able to control the ball that way.”
While the defense didn’t create any turnovers, they made multiple tackles for loss and got at least one sack from 2016 Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year Ja’Von Rolland-Jones, redshirt freshman William Bradley-King, sophomore T.J. Harris, senior Dee Liner and juniors Ronheen Bingham and Dajon Emory.
The Red Wolves began their spring camp last week with four practices and held four more this week, including back-to-back workouts on Friday and Saturday. A-State will conduct two practices next week on Wednesday and Friday, then three more the following week before holding its “Friday Night Fan Fest” on April 21.
“I think we just have to look at the big picture and see schematically if we are moving in the right direction – are we playing hard, are we playing physical,” said Anderson. “The other stuff will settle itself out as we get more bodies here (in the fall), as we get more reps, as we settle in on who our starting group and role players are going to be – we don’t have that right now.
“I definitely think this group knows how to work, and they are coachable. We talked a lot about that before going into spring – don’t be stubborn, be coachable, try to take instruction and get better. I think they like what we’re doing. I think there is so much work still to be done that it’s hard to say we’re anywhere close to where we want to be. The next four practices are critical for us to make sure that we see some steady improvement during this second half of spring ball.”