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ASU offense tries to find right speed

By Troy Schulte

This article was published August 1, 2014 at 2:44 a.m.


Arkansas State football coach Blake Anderson answers questions during Wednesday's media day in Jonesboro.

JONESBORO -- Blake Anderson and Walt Bell weren't all that pleased with the pace at which Arkansas State's offense operated during spring practice, but considering the transition they were making the task of speeding up the offense was expected to be difficult.

The clock is ticking faster now. The Red Wolves held the first of 18 practices leading up to their Aug. 30 season opener against Montana State.

A few speed bumps are expected in camp, but Anderson, ASU's first-year head coach, and Bell, the offensive coordinator, made it clear Wednesday that a concession won't be made.

"We don't want to slow down and compromise what we believe in and what makes us who we are," Anderson said. "We need those guys to play to our tempo."

Anderson and Bell are installing an offense that is quite a bit different than the more methodical approach run by Bryan Harsin last season, but they are also dealing with inexperience.

Running back Michael Gordon, wide receiver J.D. McKissic, tight end Darion Griswold and right tackle Colton Jackson were all named to preseason All-Sun Belt Conference preseason teams, but they are also the only returners with significant starting experience.

No matter how tough it will be to get, the rate at which the ball is snapped won't change. Anderson and Bell have said they want the ball snapped with no less than 15 seconds on the play clock. If that can't be done, the solution will be taking plays out of the plan, not showing more patience.

"We'll just do less. We'll do less as fast," Bell said. "It ain't going to be fun to play offense for us. We're going to be uncomfortable every day."

Anderson said he's planned ahead for the possibility of players not being able to operate at full speed. He said about 85 percent of the offense was installed during spring practice. More concepts may be added this fall, but none has to be.

"I won't really know for a couple of weeks how this team handles some of those things that have not been thrown at them yet," he said. "If we do well, then we'll have some fun and be a little bit more complex. If we struggle, then we'll narrow it down and be very simple and make sure we're prepared to play fast on Saturday."

Quarterback Fredi Knighten said he and teammates tried to simulate the fast pace during summer workouts, but that can be tough without pads and the entire team.

"We're going to take it slow and try to get everybody organized and on the same page," Knighten said. "After that we're rolling, trying to go as fast as we can every day, every rep. It's going to be tough at first, but we'll get it."

Knighten has yet to start a game for ASU and hasn't won the starting job officially, and three offensive lineman will make their first starts when the season opens. The most productive receiver behind McKissic, junior Tres Houston, caught eight passes for 44 yards last season, and one of the top contenders to back up Gordon is DeKeathan Williams, who was a linebacker until he was moved by the new staff in the spring.

But Bell complimented the toughness of receivers Dijon Paschal and Carl Lee Jr., both redshirt freshmen, as well as quarterback Stephen Hogan, who is competing with Knighten for the starting job.

"We've got the best skill guys in the league," Bell said. "If I told you any different I'd be lying. I don't want to be a bunch of coachspeak and say we're not very good when we are.

"We've got to find a way to be as good as any team in the league."

Sports on 08/01/2014

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