NWADG College Football


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44 Arkansas Football Sunday, August 26, 2018 Brown said the coaching staff had to pinch itself while watching Smith during spring practice because the former Wampus Cat "looked like a two-to-three-year starter." "Players gravitate toward him," Brown said. "What I consider him to have is the 'it factor.' You're just born with it. Breylin Smith has that. He wants the ball in his hands in tight situa- tions." So confident are the UCA coaches in Smith, they ignored "numerous" calls about transfer quarterbacks who wanted to play for the Bears. "We did not field those calls," Brown said. "We felt like we did a good job recruiting, where we feel like we have quality depth." Junior Kirk Baugh and true freshman Be- Sean McCray — an Orlando, Fla., native with "true 4.4" speed — also are quarterbacks on the roster. The Bears return one starter on the offensive line, and the team lost All-Southland tackle John Cook, who used his final year of eligibility as a graduate transfer to South Alabama. There is more experience in the running game. Junior running back Carlos Blackman was named preseason first-team all-conference after rushing for 787 yards and nine touchdowns in 2017. Blackman said Brown recruited him at Gosnell High School, winning him over with persistence by showing up to his high school basketball game. "I had talked to him on the phone, and he told me he was gonna come watch me play," said the 6-1, 228-pound Blackman. "Sure enough, he was in the stands." Blackman said the connection helped during the coaching transition. "Not much is changing for me," he said. "I'm still comfortable with Coach Brown and what he does." Brown said he is maintaining the 3-4 defen- sive scheme with first-year defensive coordina- tor Max Thurmond, who coached linebackers at Austin Peay the past two seasons. "We're able to keep a lot of the same termi- nology, vision that we've had here that's been so successful," Brown said. In 2017, UCA ranked 14th nationally in scor- ing defense (17.5 points allowed per game) and 24th in total defense (318.8 yards allowed per game). The defensive line "is as good as anybody in the country," Brown said. All-Southland junior defensive end Chris Terrell led the conference with 20 tackles for loss in 2017, when he ranked second with 11 sacks and fourth with three forced fumbles. The other end spot will be filled by senior Cardell Best, who earned a medical redshirt after missing all of last season with a foot injury. All together, Blackman said he believes the team can build on last year, and "we can possi- bly win a championship." It would be the first championship since 1991, and Brown believes the program can get there. These coaches would know. They know the program better than anyone else. UCA v Continued from Page 43 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette File Photo Arkansas State running back Armond Weh-Weh (right) shakes off linebacker Keyondre Brown for a touchdown April 21 during ASU's Spring football game at Centennial Bank Stadium in Jonesboro. JONESBORO — Arkansas State has compiled a winning record in all four years that Blake Anderson has been the Red Wolves' head coach. Settling for a winning record is not on Arkansas State's agenda for 2018. The Red Wolves want and ex- pect a little more this season. "Every year I've been here, the team has had a great chance of breaking all types of records but what's held us back is penalties and not being focused," senior running back Warren Wand said. "This year, we're focused on the little things, the details, the way we start." Arkansas State has a "command- ing edge" to win the Sun Belt's West Division, according to Athlon Sports magazine. Justice Hansen returns at quar- terback after earning the confer- ence's Offensive Player of the Year honors in 2017. The Red Wolves are loaded at the receiver and running back positions. Defensively, Arkan- sas State has five returning starters from a group that averaged giving up 25.8 points a game, which ranked fourth among Sun Belt teams in 2017. "The excitement and anticipa- tion may be higher than its ever been here," Anderson said. "That's what we want to be a part of and hopefully we've got something to do with those expectations and the ex- citement level being as high as it is." The Red Wolves were 7-5 in 2017 but lost three of their last five games, including a 32-25 home loss to Troy in the final regular season game and a 35-30 loss to Middle Tennessee in the Camellia Bowl. Arkansas State led the Sun Belt in scoring offense, pass offense, total offense, first downs, punt return av- erage and third-down conversions. The Red Wolves also led the SBC in penalties and their 25 turnovers were second only to New Mexico State's 29. "I think the players want a shot at redemption," Anderson said. "Not to put words in their mouths, but there's work to be done and they are very aware of it. We've made that clear," Hansen completed 305 of 487 passes for 3,967 yards. His 37 scoring TDs were 10 more than any other quarterback in the Sun Belt, but he was also intercepted 16 times. The Red Wolves receiving corps will give Hansen plenty of options. Senior Justin McInnis (49 catches, 800 yards) is the team's leading re- turning receiver but junior Omar Bayless (32 for 439) and senior Ken- drick Edwards (38 for 434) will also be targets. Transfers Dahu Green (Oklahoma) and Kirk Merritt (East Mississippi Community College) may also find themselves on the re- ceiving end of Hansen's passes. "Those guys are very talented," Hansen said. "It's certainly a situa- tion where you walk out there and you don't have to pick one guy and say 'OK, this is the guy I have to get it to.' All of them can make plays at any time." Arkansas State focusing on details TIM COOPER ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE v Continued on next page

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