The more things change, the more they stay the same. January 2020 started with political unrest. The Arkansas State Red Wolves didn’t have a starting quarterback heading into spring practice. January 2021 started with political unrest. You can infer the rest.
A Quarterback Competition is on the Horizon at Arkansas State
A Quick History Lesson (Knowledge is Power!)
Last season, the Arkansas State Red Wolves used a two-quarterback system featuring outgoing transfer Logan Bonner and presumed 2021 starter Layne Hatcher. The system was…well, it was something. It seemed to stem from a “well, they both deserve a shot; what’s the worst that could happen?” mentality from former head coach Blake Anderson.
Though the idea was justifiable early in the season — both quarterbacks were worthy of starting in the Sun Belt, after all — it got as stale as that pre-quarantine bread you forgot about in the back of your pantry rather quickly.
Let’s rewind. Bonner kicked butt in his time as a starter in 2019. He threw 10 touchdowns to just one pick (thanks to a botched snap that got batted into the air) and accumulated over 1,000 yards in just four games. He was well on pace for a Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year nomination until a broken thumb derailed his season.
Hatcher’s first pass as a starter was a 90-something yard touchdown to the nation’s top receiver — and Biletnikoff snub — Omar Bayless to open a nail-biter against the Troy Trojans, and he never looked back. Fast forward eight games and Hatcher was named Sun Belt Freshman of the Year.
So, with both healthy, what do we do? Instead of deciding who starts and leads the team, the two quarterbacks just swapped places every series for the entirety of the season, no matter what happened on the previous drive. Though the defense was absolutely horrendous and the offense actually played well at times, the strategy ultimately led to a measly 4-7 record, the worst at A-State in a decade.
But that’s all behind us now. Bonner joined Anderson at Utah State and new head coach (and wearer of Alabama gear on national television while on the Arkansas State payroll) Butch Jones gets to work with Hatcher as his starter next season. Or does he?
(P.S. Coach Jones, if you’re reading this, it’s just a joke. You’re intimidating enough already, please don’t hurt me.)
Arkansas State Lands Florida State Transfer QB
James Blackman, former Florida State quarterback, is the newest Arkansas State Red Wolf. In four years with the Seminoles, Blackman threw for 5,445 yards, 43 touchdowns, and 26 interceptions while completing 60.5% of his passes. He also caught one pass for two yards. Can you say dual threat?
Perhaps most importantly, he has two years of eligibility thanks to a second-year redshirt and a free year courtesy of everyone’s favorite modern plague.
So, how does this shake up the depth chart?
Competition breeds greatness. And German Shepherd breeders breed dogs, but you probably already knew that one. It seems there will be a quarterback competition in Jonesboro this fall as Hatcher and Blackman duke it out for the right to helm the offense.
Quarterbacks don’t transfer to ride the pine, after all. Blackman is coming to Jonesboro to play. And pseudo-starters from a season ago expect to inherit the starting job the next season. Hatcher isn’t going anywhere and won’t give up his seat on the throne for free. So what happens next?
UFC 870: Hatcher vs Blackman
As a life-long Florida State hater, I’ve not seen much film of Blackman. His stats are decent for an ACC starter, but numbers can be deceiving. I know the Seminoles have been down bad lately, but also that the internet is hyped about the Red Wolves landing the former four-star recruit.
However, I have seen two years of Hatcher. He is one of the hardest working players I’ve ever been around. He embodies the “first one there, last one to leave” saying, and wants nothing more than to be the best football player and leader he can be. Last season it seemed like the team rallied around him in a way that felt special. When he was on the field, there was a bit more electricity in the air than when he wasn’t.
If I know one thing (I don’t know many more than that), it’s that Hatcher won’t lay down and give his job up. He’ll fight tooth and nail for every opportunity he can get. Only time will tell if he has the talent to beat out Blackman, but ultimately it’s up to the football gods and the coaching staff to make that decision when the time comes. Until then, there’s a lot to look forward to in Jonesboro.
Is it Football Season Yet?
Depth is good. Competition is good. Hell, anything that can bring more excitement to Jonesboro is good. Between the hiring of Jones and A-State football G.O.A.T. Ryan Aplin (former quarterback, now running backs coach) to the ensuing quarterback competition, there is more to look forward to at Centennial Bank Stadium in 2021 than there has been in a while.
Competition in the Sun Belt is as strong as ever and the Red Wolves have a mountain to climb to get back on top. But for the first time in a few years, it seems like the challenge is possible, and even if they don’t get to the top in the next few years, it should be a hell of a ride.