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Arkansas State got off to a slow 2015 due to a difficult non-conference schedule, but that eventually led to an undefeated Sun Belt record and nine total wins. Reaching those levels may be a little tougher this year, especially the 40 points per game with new faces on the offensive side. That said, the Red Wolves will still compete for the conference title.
ASU lost their offensive coordinator, but aren't expected to change much from the spread attack with Buster Faulkner, Middle Tennessee's former OC, taking over. Maybe the bigger question is at quarterback where the competition is likely to last into the fall. Former Oklahoma recruit Justice Hansen will compete with Pittsburgh transfer Chad Voytik. Both have some experience and won't be a major downgrade from Fredi Knighten, if at all.
Things will be made easier by the help of five returning senior offensive linemen, which doesn't happen too often. These guys led the way for the highest scoring offense in the Sun Belt last year and could do the same again. The backfield will likely be split between Warren Wand (709 yards, 5 TDs) and Johnston White (614 yards, 14 TDs).
The receivers will be slightly inexperienced with ASU's top two guys gone, but Dijon Paschal (541 yards, 3 TDs) knows the offense and a couple high-level transfers from Big 12 schools join him. The offense maybe won't be as consistent, but they should be as explosive.
The Red Wolves had a solid defense last year, even though they allowed 30.2 points per game. Their stats showed up in the turnover department as they had an incredible 26 interceptions and eight defensive TDs. With experience returning at every level, they should be just as good, although probably won't replicate the turnover numbers.
The line is experienced with end Ja'Von Rolland-Jones and nose guard Waylon Roberson. Alabama transfer Dee Liner will also help plenty at tackle. It's the same situation at linebacker with leading tacklers Xavier Woodson-Luster and Khari Lain leading the way. The secondary may have a couple holes, but still has all-conference players in corner Blaise Taylor and safety Cody Brown.
Head coach Blake Anderson has continued the Arkansas State success since coming in a couple years ago and that doesn't look to change this season. The Red Wolves could lose three non-conference games again, but will have advantages against the rest of the Sun Belt. They open conference play with three straight home games (although close with three road games). Without Appalachian State on the schedule, the possibility is there for ASU to run the table again. However, a tough road slate could lead to some trouble, especially as three of those come in a row.
Arkansas State has the same odds as Appalachian State to win the conference, but the Red Wolves have higher walls to climb with a new quarterback and offensive coordinator. Their over/under at 5Dimes is at 8 wins with the over the small favorite to hit. If the Wolves can grab two non-conference wins, reaching eight wins shouldn't be too hard to reach as long as they don't have too big of issues with a new quarterback.
2016 Arkansas State Red Wolves Football Schedule
Sept. 2 vs. Toledo
Sept. 10 at Auburn
Sept. 16 at Utah State
Sept. 24 vs. Central Arkansas
Oct. 5 vs. Georgia Southern
Oct. 15 vs. South Alabama
Oct. 29 vs. Louisiana-Monroe
Nov. 3 at Georgia State
Nov. 12 vs. New Mexico State
Nov. 17 at Troy
Nov. 26 at Louisiana-Lafayette
Dec. 3 at Texas State
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