Sunday, March 27, 2011

Arkansas State Red Wolves 2010 Review

2010 Record: 4-8 (4-4), Tied 4th Sun Belt
2010 Bowl Game: None
2010 Schedule/Results: @ Auburn, L 52-26, @ UL-Lafayette, L 31-24, UL-Monroe, W 34-20, @ Troy, L 35-28, Louisville, L 34-24, @ North Texas, W 24-19, @ Indiana, L 36-34, Florida Atlantic, W 37-16, Middle Tennessee, W 51-24, Western Kentucky, L 36-35, @ Navy, L 35-19, @ FIU, L 31-24


     The ggod news was that ASU has one of the two best QBs in the Sun Belt. The bad news is that the season was derailed by mid-October, and HC Steve Roberts lost his job, to be replaced by Hugh Freeze, who seems like the best coach available to take Ryan Aplin to the next level as a college QB. Aplin is the centerpiece of ASU football, and as good as he was in 2010, he can be even better.
     Aplin averaged 244.5 yards passing per game as a sophomore, but that's not all he was good for, as he also rushed for 477 yards and 11 TDs. He passed for 21 TDs, and tossed 11 picks, but with his 32-11 TD to pick ratio combined, I'd say that it was a solid season for the young QB. Aplin will be focused on as the center of the ASU game plan, so expect to see some major fireworks in 2011.
     Derek Lawson actually led the Red Wolves in rushing, but only led Aplin by 23 yards on the season at 500. He'll have to do better than that to give Aplin some breathing room, as if the rushing game is more of a threat separate of Aplin, then the offense will be even more potent. Lawson also only rushed for 4 scores, something that also will have to get better in 2011, Lawson will be a senior. Jermaine Robertson also rushed for 4 TDs, but was not a big yardage threat.
     Four of Aplin's 5 top targets in 2010 will be returning in 2011, making ASU a comebcak team of the year candidate in the Sun Belt, at least on offense. Dwayne Frampton was far and away the best receiver of the lot, or at least the most productive, as he ran up a line of 69-738-6. Allen Muse and Taylor Stockemer, both sophomores, were rangier receivers when it came to yards per catch, as Muse averaged 15.12 YPC, and Stockemer averaged 16.47 YPC. They combined for a line of 76-1195-10 as the 2 and 3 receivers. Carlos McCants caught 10 passes as a freshman, and will be in line to be the 4 receiver in 2011. Anthony Robinson was the lone senior of the group.
     The ASU defense was a major drawback in 2010, as the Red Wolves gave up 436.3 yards per game, which was 33 yards more per game than they rolled up on offense. Add to that fact that the top two tacklers in 2010 were both seniors in Javin McKinnon (95 tackles), and MD Jennings (84), and the Red Wolves have to figure some things out during Hugh Freeze's first spring session. Luckily, 9 out of the next 10 tacklers will all return, but returning alone is not a reason for optimism, as this group did very little to help ASU win in 2010. Kelcie McCray was third on the team with 79 tackles, but 3 of the top 6 tacklers came from the secondary, meaning that far too many plays are getting past the first wave of defense, the front seven. Nathan Herrold and Demario Davis, both returning LBs, will have to take a stake in leading this defense to brighter days.
     Stating my case for lack of playmakers up front, no player scored double digits in TFLs in 2010, with Bryan Hill and Dorvus Woods both coming up short at 9 a piece. Hall leaves ASU, and there was very little in the way of production in the backfield from any other defender. Hall also led the Wolves in sacks with 7, and nobody came close to that.
     Junior DB Darron Edwards was the only member of the secondary to have a hugely succesful season. Edwards knocked away 10 passes in 2010, and will be an anchor of a largely intact secondary in 2011. Nobody had half of what Edwards had. Edwards, however, failed to turn many of those opportunities into picks, and ended the season with only 2. Jennings led the team with only 3.
     ASU went with 2 freshman PKs in 2010, with one being succesful, and one not so much. Brian Davis made the most of his opportunity, as he nailed 6 of his 8 attempts on the season, while Bobby Zalud failed his opportunity, making only 6 of his 13 attempts on the season. I'd say that Freeze will go with Davis alone in 2011, barring any circumstances arising from spring ball. Neely Sullivent handled the punting job, and was respectable at 40.67 yards per punt on 43 punts in 2010. Sullivent will be a senior in 2011.


Freeze has the tools in place to compete for a bowl game in 2011, as with Aplin at QB, anything is possible. Other than Aplin, there is also a great deal of returning depth at every skill position. The real issue is the question of how Freeze intends on building his defense. That unit was a basic disaster in 2010, and must be rebuilt top to bottom. ASU will look to push forward on the talent of a wide open spread attack on offense, and hope that the returnees on defense can find a new outlook and a new philosophy to at  least start with stopping the run. That would be a good place to start. Everything else can follow. ASU will enter as a team with unseen potential, but that could be a blessing or a curse in 2011.

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