NWADG College Football


Issue link: http://www.epageflip.net/i/865593

Contents of this Issue


Page 44 of 47

FINANCING RURAL LIVING. HELPING YOU FINANCE LAND AND HOMES IN THE COUNTRY. • Long-term, fixed interest rates • Local service • Construction-to-permanent home loans in one easy cloing • Any size acreage • Bare land myaglender.com 800-953-6806 Sunday, August 27, 2017 45 NWA Democrat-Gazette College Football Preview UCA returns 15 starters and is ranked No. 15 in both the FCS preseason coach- es poll and the STATS FCS Top 25 poll. The ranking is second in the Southland to Sam Houston, which is ranked No. 3 in both polls. The UCA offense — which ranked second in the Southland in scoring (33.1 points per game) last season — returns its entire offensive line and 6-1, 235-pound sophomore running back Carlos Blackmon, who led the Bears with 616 yards and 5 touchdowns last season. But the offense graduated re- ceivers Desmond Smith (893 yards, 8 touchdowns in 2016) and Jatavious Wilson (891 yards, 3 touchdowns), who made up more than half of the offense's receiving yards. Campbell said the remaining re- ceivers were hidden behind Smith and Wilson last season but still made significant contributions — such as senior Brandon Cox's game-winning touchdown reception in UCA's 28-23 victory over Arkansas State University last season. Campbell is confident in senior Ro- man Gordan (312 yards, 1 touchdown), and he said Little Rock Christian gradu- ate and redshirt freshman Joe Hampton has "big-play ability." "I think we found those guys," Hil- debrand said. "I have faith that our re- ceivers are going to go out and make the most of it." UCA's 4-2-5 defense was No. 1 in the Southland last season in scoring de- fense (21.7 points allowed per game), total defense (336.3 yards allowed per game) and rushing defense (72.8 yards allowed per game). Four defensive players were named to the Southland's preseason first team (senior defensive end Cardell Best, and senior defensive backs George Odum, Jaylon Lofton and Tremon Smith). Campbell said the group's biggest ques- tion is at defensive tackle. Campbell pointed out 6-1, 368-pound senior Javian Williams as a player he hopes can replace last season's All-Southland tackle Jordan Tolliver. "He's a guy that needs to step up and be a dominant player because he's big," Campbell said. "It's his turn now. If we're going to be where we need to be on the defensive line, we need for him to step up and do it." UCA will open the season at Kan- sas State on Sept. 2 and will play Sam Houston in its second Southland game at home Sept. 30. Hildebrand has no intention of fin- ishing second again. "There's no reason we can't make a run at a national championship," Hil- debrand said. "As far as expectations go, we can go a long way. We're the only thing that's going to stop us." v Continued from preceding page A close look reveals a program on the brink of prestige. Arkansas State University has been fighting for the Group of 5 automatic spot in college football's top six bowls ever since the playoff system was imple- mented in 2014. ASU has won four Sun Belt Confer- ence championships out of the last five seasons, but fourth-year coach Blake An- derson said the team's focus has extend- ed to winning that nonconference game against a Power 5 opponent that could spur the Red Wolves to a New Year's Six bowl appearance. "We truly want to bring that signature victory, that signature season to Jones- boro," said Anderson, whose teams have yet to beat a Power 5 opponent. "We love winning conference titles, and we want to continue to do that. But we want to take that next step." Anderson tweaked his spread offense over the offseason in a way that redshirt senior receiver Dijon Paschal said in the team's July 28 media day would include "more shots down the field" this season. The tweaks were showcased in the final scrimmage of fall practice on Aug. 12, when returning starter and ju- nior quarterback Justice Hansen com- pleted several deep passes — including a 37-yard, back-shoulder pass to senior slot receiver Chris Murray, who was moved from outside receiver to inside receiver at the start of fall camp because Ander- son believed Murray could be a threat on the inside. "It gave us size on the outside; it gives us speed on the inside," Anderson said. "Puts him in space that he's not normal- ly been in, and I think he's really liking what we're doing with him." On the outside are receivers like Pas- chal, who had 308 yards and 3 touch- downs last season. Eligibility opens for the 6-5, 212-pound junior Kendrick Ed- wards, who transferred from the Univer- sity of Arkansas, Fayetteville in 2016. An- derson said Edwards has "the potential to be as good as anybody in the country," Arkansas State is on brink of breakthrough BROOKS KUBENA ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE See ASU, Page 46

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of NWADG College Football - 2017