Jerry Scott, Assistant Athletic Director for Media Relations
JONESBORO – The Arkansas State football team began its spring camp Tuesday evening at Centennial Bank Stadium, taking the field in shorts and helmets for the first of 15 practices that will run through Apr. 24.
“I thought we bounced around well, and the guys were excited to be outside practicing,” said Blake Anderson, who is the first head coach in A-State history to win 24 or more games over his first three seasons at the school. “We’ve been talking about it for weeks now and, even coming back from spring break, you could tell when we met on Sunday night the guys were ready to go. I don’t know if it was a good practice, but it was an energetic practice – a lot of tempo and guys flying around, so that’s a good start.”
The Red Wolves worked individual and position drills while going through several team and special teams periods, all part of what Anderson said was day-one installation that included base formations.
“We really just wanted to see how they handle themselves and what they retained,” Anderson noted. “We’ve been teaching them for a couple of weeks, so it was seeing how much they remembered coming back from spring break. For the most part, we didn’t have very many busts, so the retention was good. The execution wasn’t great, but that will come in time.”
A-State, which has appeared in a school-record six consecutive bowl games while winning 52 games and five Sun Belt Conference championships since 2011, has nine returning starters, 50 lettermen and five midyear signees among its players in spring camp. While it is still very early, Anderson said many of those players stood out today.
“We couldn’t block Dee Liner – of course we didn’t have any pads on, and I would hope we couldn’t,” Anderson said. “I thought Omar Bayless made a couple of big catches today, which was fun to watch, and Warren (Wand) looked like he knows what he is doing as you would expect. Kyle Wilson showed up as he always does, made a couple of plays down the middle and communicated well. You can tell he’s taking charge of the defense, which was good to see.”
Asked about the offensive line by media members following practice, the Red Wolves’ head coach discussed the process of replacing all five starters from a year ago, including All-Sun Belt Conference performers Jemar Clark and Colton Jackson.
“I think the first step is them knowing what to do,” Anderson stated. “It’s hard to go out and compete if you don’t know what to do, so that is going to be the first thing – how quickly can they understand the scheme, and then from there technically can they can compete. I think it is going to be rough all spring for (offensive line) Coach (Allen) Rudolph to find the right five guys. We still have several coming in the fall – most of them will be here in June. So it will be a work in progress, but we’ve got guys to work with, and they’re all eager and working hard. They collectively had a great offseason and prepared for a good spring, and we didn’t have that option a year ago. They were all coming out of surgery, so this is a completely different environment and virtually no experience.”
The Red Wolves will have three more practices this week, including Wednesday and Friday at 4 p.m. and Saturday at 9:30 a.m. A-State will hold its spring game at Centennial Bank Stadium on Friday, Apr. 21, at 6 p.m.
“I want to make sure we get the most out of every practice – don’t take any of them for granted,” said Anderson. “We talked about that as a staff and with the team. Fifteen (practices) seems like a big number, but it’s really not – it just goes by so quickly. I felt like the one thing that came out of offense, defense and special teams film review from the season was we’ve got to be much more detail oriented, and we’ve got to take that into the spring. So that’s really what we’ve stressed. We want coachable guys with great attitudes who are ready to get better at the techniques, and that’s in every phase.”