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Arkansas State Indians Preview

Posted by Ryne E. Hancock on August 3, 2007

Hard to believe, but the highwater mark of Arkansas State’s 2006 football season was their thrilling come-from-behind win over the Memphis Tigers in September at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, giving the Indians some confidence as they prepared themselves to defend their 2005 Sun Belt championship, their first football championship of any kind since joining Division I in 1991.

But instead of making the short drive down Interstate 55 to “Nawlins,” the Indians found themselves in the middle of the pack, finishing in a tie for third at 4-3 in conference play and 6-6 overall, something that the locals in Jonesboro hope doesn’t happen this year as Steve Roberts returns for his sixth season at the helm.

Much like the folks in Madison, Wisconsin, Arkansas State lives and dies by the running game, ranking 29th in the country for rushing yards per game thanks in part to standout running back Reggie Arnold, who led the team with 1,076 rushing yards, a stellar number for a guy who made a few freshman All-American squads in various publications. Don’t expect the same numbers from Arnold this year as juniors Matt Reibe and Matt Mandich return to a very inexperienced offensive line with three new starters that will be starting for the first time when the Indians open their season on September 1st against the Texas Longhorns.

Arkansas State’s defense is also getting an extreme makeover as only five starters return to a defense that was 32nd in the nation in total defense, allowing 309.4 yards a game. The notable returnees on defense are senior linebacker Koby McKinnon, who earned second-team All-Sun Belt honors last year after leading the team in sacks with 3 and recorded 57 tackles and safeties Tyrell Johnson and Khayyam Burns, who helped the Indians’ defense finish ninth nationally in interceptions. Their leadership is going to be needed for a relatively young defensive unit if they want to remain one of the Sun Belt’s best defensive units.

Final verdict: This is a very young team that coach Steve Roberts is working with in Jonesboro, a team that last imploded down the stretch with four losses in their last five games due in part to injuries on the secondary. One thing about this team is that it desparately needs to score points on offense after averaging 15.2 points a game and focus more on the development of QB Corey Leonard to establish a balanced offensive attack for the future. The schedule for the most part in the first month is going to be a test of agility with road games at Tennessee and Texas, two teams that could be in the running for a BCS bowl bid at the end of the season. Otherwise, the rest of the schedule seems to be a formidable tossup with a loaded Troy team coming to Jonesboro on October 27th and a road trip to Murfreesboro to face the Blue Raiders on October 20th.

Projected record: 5-6 (4-4 Sun Belt)

2007 Arkansas State Schedule

Sept. 1st @ Texas

Sept 8th. Memphis

Sept. 15 SMU

Sept. 22nd @ Tennessee

Oct. 6th @ UL Monroe

Oct. 13th UL Lafyette

Oct. 20th @ Middle Tennessee

Oct. 27th Troy

Nov. 3rd Florida International

Nov. 10th @ Florida Atlantic

Nov. 15th North Texas

Nov. 24 @ Southern Mississippi

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