Arkansas State fan contributor David Kenley has agreed to come on board with RedWolfReport.com as a fan correspondent.
His first article comes after he took the time to read the Five Questions feature all of the Sun Belt Conference websites on the Rivals.com network, and he decided to give his take which you can find below.
1. Why will Arkansas State be better or worse than the preview magazines predict?
If ASU is better than the preview magazines predict it will be because the newcomers to the defense stepped up and they are as good as last year's defense AND because the offensive linemen that moved into the starting roles were ready to go as well.
If they are worse it is because of the inexperience of the defense and the lack of blocking from the OL. Of course the main reason they could be worse is an injury to quarterback Ryan Aplin.
2. Which player(s) will Arkansas State miss the most from last season?
Demario Davis is a huge loss - how much he will be missed depends on JC transfer Eddie Porter. Other major losses come from Defensive Player of the Year Brandon Joiner, 1st team All-SBC S - Kelcie McCray and 2nd team All-SBC defensive tackle Dorvus Woods.
These guys will need players like DE Tim Starson, DE Ishmail Hayes, S Kyle Coleman, and DT Amos Draper to really step up their game in 2012.
The only offensive guy that will be missed is Tom Castilaw. I feel like as good as Dwayne Frampton was there is plenty of go to guys at receiver that can pick up the slack.
3. Which newcomers will make the biggest impact this season?
The guys that are going to get the most opportunities are RB/WR David Oku, WR J.D. McKissic, DE - Ishmail Hayes, DE - John Gandy, DE - Lawrence Cayou, DT - Dexter Blackmon, LB - Eddie Porter, S - Kyle Coleman and CB - Terrious Triplett.
Oku will probably make a lot of noise because of the position he plays. If this team is to be what it was in 2011 then the impact needs to come from Hayes, Porter and Gandy - The Blinn Three!
4. What is the biggest question mark heading into preseason practice?
Defense, Defense, and Defense. Oh and who plays Left Tackle. This defense lost a ton and I believe the biggest question is who is going to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
ASU loses 27 of the 35 sacks from last season. The Defensive end position returns one contributor.
The linebacker position lost it's defensive leader. 3 defensive back starters are gone. The defense has talent returning and incoming but they have to buy into John Thompson's scheme early and be ready for the D1 game speed from day 1. Left Tackle - got to find one to protect Aplin.
5. How does the schedule set up for Arkansas State?
It is a rough schedule. Two big time top 10 programs (Oregon & Nebraska) on the road. And the tough conference teams are almost all road games as well - UL-Lafayette, Florida Int'l, and Troy.
Win your six home games (WKU is a tough home game.), beat a much improved North Texas on the road and that gives you 7 wins - can you get 1 or more of the tough 5 road games?
Don't know - it is a tough schedule.
Bonus question. What is the best-case scenario (and/or worse-case scenario) for Arkansas State this season?
Worst case scenario - Defense is too inexperienced to stop anyone. Aplin gets hurt early in the season and the offensive line can't open holes for the running backs requiring Phillip Butterfield or whichever backup to have to throw it more than they are ready for. All that happens and it will be a sub .500 season.
Best case scenario - Aplin picks up Gus Malzahn's offense quickly, the OL gels and can both pass and run block, and the skill players are what we think they are - that offense is unstoppable.
The defensive returnees, young guys, and newcomers play at a level that is equal to their talent and they catch up to the speed of the game from day 1.
That makes this team look a lot like last year with an even more potent offense!
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