NWADG College Football


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26 NWA COLLEGE FOOTBALL PREVIEW | 8.28.2022 MITCHELL GLADSTONE ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE JONESBORO — The palace intrigue surrounding Arkansas State University's starting quarterback last August was cranked up to 11. James Blackman and Layne Hatcher split first-team repetitions equally throughout the preseason. Coach Butch Jones never indicated a leader in the clubhouse. When the videoboard inside Jonesboro's Centennial Bank Stadium flashed the Red Wolves' starters ahead of ASU's opener against the University of Central Arkansas, both quarterbacks appeared. Blackman eventually ran out with the starters, but he held the job for not even three quarters. Hatcher replaced him midway through, only for the same to happen in reverse the following week against Memphis. Blackman started the next four games before a shoulder injury ended his season. All of that is to say, there was little stability for Blackman during his first year in Jonesboro. Not that there was more during his four seasons at Florida State. The Seminoles ran through four head coaches and four offensive coordinators while Blackman alternated between starter and reserve. Thus, Jones' declaration at Sun Belt Media Days was likely a welcome change for Blackman. Not only does the 6-5 Floridian know he'll be the Red Wolves' starting quarterback, but he'll do so with the backing of Jones and offensive coordinator Keith Heckendorf, giving Blackman a level of consistency he's yet to have in his collegiate career. "I understand that this is my team," Blackman told the Arkansas Democrat- Gazette last month. "I play a big role within the team. They feed off of me but at the same time, I use those guys to help filter me some energy as well. Even though I know I'm locked down with a spot, I still need to come out with the same intensity." It's hard to imagine ASU's defense not improving in 2022. The Red Wolves ranked second-to-last in total defense last season and were constantly haunted by explosive plays, be it on the ground or through the air. But even with new faces at all three levels of the defense — ASU added transfers Blayne Toll (Colorado/ Arkansas), Jordan Carmouche (Houston) and Eddie Smith (Illinois/Alabama) at defensive end, linebacker and safety, respectively — the Red Wolves' success is going to hinge on their offense. Coming off a 2-10 season, the program's worst in more than two decades, ASU will be replacing its leading passer, rusher and receiver. Quarterback Layne Hatcher and running back Lincoln Pare departed for conference foe Texas State while wideout Corey Rucker is now at South Carolina. BLACKMAN SOLIDIFIES POSITION UNDER CENTER FOR RED WOLVES James Blackman | Arkansas State quarterback File Photo

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