Red Wolves Seek Ninth Straight Bowl Bid
(This is the seventh in a series previewing the 2019 opponents of the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns. Today: Arkansas State. The Cajuns visit Jonesboro for an ESPNU game on Thursday, October 17th. Information from Phil Steele's College Football Preview was used in putting together this story.)
Consistency isn't just a word at Arkansas State.
The Red Wolves have been a consistent winner over the last eight years and have won or shared five Sun Belt titles during that time. They've been to eight straight bowl games, including five different bowls in the last five years. And, there's a really good chance that winning will continue in 2019.
There will be a new quarterback after Justice Hansen exhausted his eligibility. Logan Bonner takes over after seeing action in five games last year. He's only thrown 53 career passes. He does have a very good receiving corps to throw to, as Kirk Merritt (1st team all-Sun Belt) and Omar Bayless both return. And, Dahu Green, a transfer from Oklahoma who missed all of last year with an injury, should be good to go.
With an inexperienced quarterback, don't be surprised to see Arkansas State run the football more in 2019, and they've got a star in the making in Marcel Murray. the Sun Belt Freshman of the Year a season ago. Murray only started four games, but led the team in rushing with 860 yards. He'll have some experience in front of him as Arkansas State returns three offensive linemen.
At Sun Belt Conference Media Days, Head Coach Blake Anderson said he believed the defensive line in 2019 will be the best he's had in his six seasons as head coach. William Bradley-King and Forrest Merrill were both second team all-SBC a year ago. Two other all-league candidates patrol the secondary in Jerry Jacobs and B. J. Edmonds.
The two specialists return, including the league's best punter in Cody Grace. Grace netted over 40 yards per kick last year. He gets the ball up so high it's almost impossible to get a return against him.
SCHEDULE: SMU at home and UNLV on the road are the G5's on the schedule. The Red Wolves host Southern Illinois and travel to #3 Georgia in week three. The league schedule is very favorable. A-State gets both Louisiana and Georgia Southern at home. They have to go to Troy but avoid Appalachian State this year.
OUTLOOK: Blake Anderson will coach with a heavy heart this year after the passing of his wife, Wendy this week. When he returns from his leave of absence, he'll be ready to guide this team into contending for a league title, as usual. The conference schedule makes the Red Wolves the favorite to win the West. There's a chance that game with Appalachian State may happen this year, after all.