While record-setting quarterback Ryan Aplin is gone after winning back-to-back Player of the Year awards in the Sun Belt Conference, the Red Wolves still have plenty of firepower on both offense and defense to make this a scary game for the Auburn Tigers.
Coming off a 10-win season that included a victory in its bowl game, Arkansas State should again be strong offensively as former Boise State offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin takes over as head coach in Jonesboro. Hoping that Utah State transfer Adam Kennedy is the answer at quarterback, the Red Wolves will lean on the running of senior David Oku and a talented wide receiver corps to get the job done early. A former Tennessee signee, Oku ran for 1,061 yards and 16 touchdowns last season.
Outside at receiver Phenix City native J.D. McKissic is back after catching 103 passes for 1,022 yards and adding five touchdowns. Four starters return on the offensive line, including talented sophomore center Bryce Giddens.
J.D. McKissic is a talented receiver out of Central High School in Phenix City who played with Auburn quarterback Jonathan Wallace.
Defensively, Arkansas State returns five starters led by Prattville native Qushaun Lee at linebacker. He's back after totaling 100 tackles last season.
Up front athletic big man Ryan Carrethers (6-2, 310) returns and could be a guy who plays his way into the early rounds of the NFL Draft with a big 2013 season. The good news is plenty of talent and depth returns in the secondary led by juniors Andrew Tryon and Sterling Young. A player who looks ready to step into a bigger role is true sophomore Chris Humes from Spain Park. He played in all 13 games with five starts last season.
Top Offensive Player
Even though Oku did some good things for the Red Wolves last season, there is no question that McKissic is the guy to stop this season. Catching more than 100 passes last year, the 5-10, 185 sophomore has a knack for getting open and making plays. Rocky Hayes (Heflin, Ala.) is also a threat on offense and will be used in a number of different ways. Last season he ran for 538 yards and three touchdowns.
Top Defensive Player
A big man on the interior defensive line for the Red Wolves, Carrethers made 68 tackles last season despite facing a double-team for much of the year. That total was the most for an interior defensive lineman in the last decade for Arkansas State.
Schedule Tough Stretch
Following a season opener against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Arkansas State travels to Auburn in week two before returning home to face Troy in a national TV game on Thursday night (Sept. 12). The Red Wolves then go back on the road two consecutive weeks to face Memphis and Missouri. That four week stretch will likely tell the tale for good Arkansas State will be in 2013.
Newcomer To Watch
A junior college transfer who threw for more than 3,000 yards last season at Copiah-Lincoln in Mississippi, Chandler Rogers could be the answer at quarterback if Kennedy doesn't get the job done. Rogers went through spring practice and that may give him a leg up on the competition if Kennedy is unable to take charge of the position.