Today, Duck Sports Authority begins its coverage of the 2012 football season with a new feature. During the month of March, we will take an early look at each of the Ducks 12 opponents for the 2012 season. We are looking at an overview of what to expect from each team and what the key pieces each team loses, gains and retains for the upcoming season.
Today we begin this feature with a look at Oregon's first opponent, Arkansas State.
Coaching change. The Arkansas State Wolves replaced the departed Hugh Freeze. Freeze coached at Arkansas State for just one season and led them to a 10-3 record before moving to Ole Miss replacing Houston Nutt as head coach. Stepping in to replace the spread oriented is another coach known for his innovation, Gus Malzahn.
Malzahn is known to Duck fans from his tenure with the Auburn Tigers as their offensive coordinator. He got his start at the college level working for Houston Nutt at the University of Arkansas before moving on to become the offensive coordinator at Tulsa. Malzahn's offense has had success whereever he has coached and expect him to keep Arkansas State's offense playing as well in 2012 as it did in the 2011 season.
Returning Starters: 6
Key returners: Ryan Aplin, QB, 6-1, 205, Redshirt Senior; Frankie Jackson, RB, 5-9, 185, Redshirt Sophomore, Taylor Stockemer, WR, 6-4, 210, Redshirt Senior, Josh Jarobe, 6-3, 215, Senior
Key Losses: Delano Moore, LT, Alex Kauti LG Tom Castilaw, Center
Key Arrivals: Michael Dyer, RB, 5-9, 210, Junior (transfer, Auburn)
Quarterback Ryan Aplin, the main offensive weapon in 2011 returns. Expect that Malzahin will use him as well in 2012 as last season. Aplin was the most dominat player for the Arkansas State team throwing 340-476 for 3588 yards and 19 touchdowns. Aplin was also the teams leading rusher with 161 carries for 588 yards and an additional 10 touchdowns.
The offense was explosive at times averaging 32.5 points per game. On the flip side, the team struggled protecting the mobile, fleet footed Aplin as they also surrendered 27 sacks on the season for (-)194 yards. While Aplin threw the ball a lot and was able to accumulate great yardage numbers, he was also prone to mental breakdowns in the passing game as evidenced by his 16 interceptions on the season.
The leading returning running Back, Frankie Jackson carried the ball just 88 times for 355 yards in 2011, but did score 6 touchdowns. Beyond Jackson there is not much experienced depth at the running back position. Micheal Dyer may be able to fill that void very well if he wins a hardship appeal to waive the transfer rule.
Wide receiver is another group that brings back some decent experience with the second and third leading receivers returning for another year in Jonesboro. Jarobe was second on the team in 2011 with 54 receptions for 730 yards and two touchdowns. Stockemer was close behind with 48 catches, but he turned those into 756 yards and 7 touchdowns. The graduated Dwayne Frampton and his 94 catches for 1156 yards and 6 touchdowns will be sorely missed, though, as the Red Wolves look to continue their aerial assault.
The biggest loss for this team on offense, though, will be at the offensive line position. The Red Wolves lost the entire left side of the line along with their center following the 2012 season.
Early Offense Prediction: Arkansas State was a wide receiver dominated team in 2011. Expect that to continue in 2012 as the Red Wolves find that their most experienced group will be the passing game led by Ryan Aplin and aided by two big returning receivers who have played against the likes of Virginia Tech and Illinois. They are no strangers to a hostile environment. The Red Wolves will throw the ball a lot and be able to gain some yards against just about anyone next season. But they will also struggle to protect the quarterback and Aplin is prone to mistakes in the passing game. Though they will move the ball and gain some yards against the Ducks, do not expect that to translate into many points.
Returning Starters: 1
Key returners: Don Jones, Cornerback, 6-1, 208, Senior
Key Losses: Brandon Joiner, DE; Demario Davis, LB, Kelcie McCray, Strong Safety, Darryl Feemster, Cornerback, Sterling Young, DB,
Key Arrivals: Lawrence Cayou, DE, 6-3, 265, Junior (JC transfer, Highland C.C., Kansas)
The defense was decimated by graduation after the 2011 season. Gone are 10 of 11 starters including the two leading tacklers (McCray, Davis), two leading quarterback rushers (Joiner, Davis) and two best defensive backs (McCray, Feemster) who combined for 9 interceptions.
Sterling Young is the leading returning tackler, but the team is going to have to replace, almost all of their starters. Gone are the defensive linemen and linebackers that created pressure. Arkansas State was very effective at creating pressure on opposing quarterbacks and creating turnovers. Joiner led the team with 19 tackles for loss and 13 sacks. Those are gone. Also gone are the 70 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and 3 sacks of linebacker Demario Davis. Arkansas State wsa tied for 15th in the nation in 2011 with 35 total sacks as a team.
The aggressive defensive pressure the Red Wolves were able to apply led to 19 interceptions on the season which was 6th best in the nations last season
One arrival who will try to have an immediate impact is Highland Community College (Kansas) transfer Lawrence Cayou.
Early Defense Prediction: Even had Arkansas State been able to keep some of the players from their 2011 team, having scouted them in their bowl appearance against Northern Illinois, this defense does not have the talent, speed, stamina or depth to play solid football against the Ducks for 60 minutes. The loss of nearly the entire starting defense, though, will make the Red Wolves trying to stay with the Ducks that much more difficult. Expect the Ducks offense to be able to move the ball with relative ease against the Red Wolves. The Ducks should also be able to score early and often before cruising against a defense sure to be exhausted by the third quarter.
OREGON WILL WIN IF: In this situation, the Ducks really just have to play within themselves, play hard, play fast and execute the offense the way it is designed.
OREGON WILL LOSE IF: There are not many situations in which it can be envisioned that Oregon loses this game, outside of catastrophic injuries to the offense or a continued series of mental lapses that cannot be solved.
PREDICTED OUTCOME: Oregon win.
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