JONESBORO, Ark. — The Arkansas State football team conducted its first extended scrimmage of its 2019 fall camp Saturday morning at Centennial Bank Stadium, running approximately 118 plays that gave a lot of players a significant amount of full-contact reps as part of the Red Wolves’ eighth practice.
The team took the field in full pads and went through various position drills prior to the start of the scrimmage, which also included dedicated time to the special teams phases of the game. Following the scrimmage, A-State head coach Blake Anderson met with the media and noted there were good plays on both sides of the ball, but the squad still has a lot to work on.
“I thought it was kind of hot and cold,” said Anderson. “It was plenty warm, so they had to fight through that some. There were some positive signs today. There were guys you expect to play well who did – (junior defensive end) William Bradley-King, (senior defensive lineman) Kevin Thurmon, (junior defensive lineman) Forrest Merrill and some of the skill guys on offense obviously made some big plays.
“We have to become more consistent up front on the offensive line. We’ve got to pay better attention to the ball up front defensively. We were giving up too many five-yard penalties jumping offsides. Today was a good test halfway through (fall camp).”
The defensive effort was partially led by junior linebacker Tajhea Chambers, who finished with eight tackles and an interception. The defense also came up with 16 tackles for loss and six sacks, including a team-high two by both Bradley-King and junior defensive end Noel Iwuchukwu.
While the offense didn’t reach the end zone, several drives were cut short after reaching a specific number of plays for each possession. The Red Wolves posted 16 plays that covered at least 10 yards and eight that went for 20 yards or more.
The longest offensive play came on a 36-yard pass from senior quarterback Carson Coats to junior tight end Javonis Isaac, but senior wideout Bubba Ogbebor also showed good awareness when he caught a deflected ball for a 35-yard gain. Junior running back Ryan Graham posted the longest run of the day at 21 yards, while sophomore Marcel Murray also had a 20-yard carry to highlight A-State’s rushing attack.
“(The offensive tempo) was good at times,” said Anderson. “It got a little sloppy towards the end, but little things like just giving the ball back to the official will help a lot. The officials had to chase the ball way too much today. Those are things just fine-tuning the offense, but we tried to push the tempo. I thought the early part of the scrimmage, the offense did a good job clicking. As we got later into the scrimmage, the defense started playing better on third down than the offense was executing, and it slowed us down – just made it sloppy.”
The Red Wolves reported for fall camp Aug. 1 and held their first practice in full pads on Tuesday, Aug. 6, prior to today’s scrimmage. The Red Wolves will hold a second scrimmage next Saturday, Aug. 17, at 6:00 p.m. as part of the Athletics Department’s annual Fall Fan Day, which begins with activities starting at 4:30 p.m. in the First Community Bank Tailgate Community.
“The biggest thing (I wanted to see from this first scrimmage) really was just effort,” Anderson said. “I think we’ve been sporadic with our effort – we’ve talked a lot about what the standard is, and we’re still trying to get it. I won’t really know until I watch the tape. It felt good on the field, but until you can really see backside pursuit and how far and how hard we’re running to the ball, it would be hard to make a good assessment.”
The Red Wolves will play five Saturday games and one nationally-televised midweek contest at Centennial Bank Stadium in 2019. They will open the season in Jonesboro for the fifth time over the last seven years when they play SMU on Aug. 31, but also host Southern Illinois (Sat., Sept. 21), Louisiana (Thur., Oct. 17), Texas State (Sat., Oct. 26), Coastal Carolina (Sat., Nov. 16) and Georgia Southern (Nov. 23).
Both single-game and season tickets for the Red Wolves’ 2019 campaign may be purchased through the A-State Ticket Office, located at First National Bank Arena’s lower red entrance, in person, by phone at 870-972-2781 or online by visiting AStateRedWolves.com.