Countdown to Kickoff: Arkansas State looks to make up for 2017's shortcoming
Arkansas State had its chance to win the Sun Belt last season, but the Red Wolves let the opportunity slip away.
Arkansas State lost to Troy in the final regular season game after it outgained the Trojans by 313 yards. Troy won the game 35-32 and secured the Sun Belt championship.
This year, the Red Wolves look to claim the title. Arkansas State was picked to win the Sun Belt west division and the conference crown.
The Red Wolves have a good opportunity to win the Sun Belt behind the arm of redshirt senior quarterback Justice Hansen. The redshirt senior signal-caller set program records in passing yards and passing touchdowns after throwing for 3,967 yards and 37 touchdowns in 2017. He also rushed for 422 yards and seven touchdowns last year.
Arkansas State has talent surrounding Hansen as well. In the backfield, the Red Wolves have senior Warren Wand, who rushed for 715 yards and six touchdowns.
At wide receiver, Hansen will target senior Justin McInnis, who hauled in 49 passes last year for 800 yards and four touchdowns. McInnis is joined by redshirt senior Kendrick Edwards and redshirt junior Omar Bayless. Edwards tallied 434 receiving yards and three touchdowns, while Bayless had 439 yards and six touchdowns.
With weapons all over the field, Arkansas State will be a tough team for its Sun Belt competitors to keep with.
On defense, the Red Wolves have to fill big holes on the defensive line in Ja'Von Rolland-Jones and Ronheen Bingham. Arkansas State will turn to transfer Kevin Thurmon and senior Christian Howard to help fill the losses.
At linebacker, the Red Wolves lost Kyle Wilson, who led them in tackles with 93. Arkansas State will turn to Tajhea Chambers to take over for Wilson. Chambers missed most of last year with an injury.
In the secondary, Arkansas State has to replace Caleb Caston, Blaise Taylor and Nehemiah Wagner. Senior Justin Clifton and junior B.J. Edmonds will play big roles in the secondary. Clifton tallied 63 tackles, including four tackles for loss, and one interception. Edmonds amassed 80 tackles and three interception in 2017.
Despite the questions on defense, ESPN’s Football Power Index projects Arkansas State to finish the year with an 8-4 record.
The Red Wolves begin the year against Southeast Missouri State on Sept. 1. Arkansas State takes on defending national champion Alabama on Sept. 8. The Red Wolves round out their non-conference slate against Tulsa on Sept. 15, and UNLV on Sept. 22.
Arkansas State plays seven Sun Belt games before taking on Texas State: Georgia Southern, Appalachian State, Georgia State, Louisiana, South Alabama, Coastal Carolina and Louisiana-Monroe.
The Red Wolves take on the Bobcats in the regular season finale on Nov. 24 at Bobcat Stadium. Arkansas State defeated Texas State, 30-12, last year, and ESPN’s FPI gives the Red Wolves an 87 percent chance to win this season’s matchup.