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JONESBORO -- Friday was the first live-in-action viewing of Arkansas State University's 2019 football team.

The Red Wolves held their first scrimmage of spring camp at Centennial Bank Stadium, which was basically an exercise to see how much work needs to be done before spring practice concludes April 23.

Friday provided a number of highlights. It also showed plenty of areas to be corrected, which is the point.

"I'd say it's going to be some really good teaching tape," ASU Coach Blake Anderson said. "There were some good things and, obviously, plenty bad. We set a record for false starts and jumping offsides. But ... we got out of it healthy, and I thought the effort was pretty good."

Every drive Arkansas State's offense ran Friday was scripted to the exact number of plays, Anderson said.

With six practices prior to Friday's scrimmage, Anderson said ASU was not ready to delve into red-zone offense, so it avoided red zone and goal-line scenarios.

"Really didn't want to work goal line or the score zone," Anderson said. "We're not that far along yet."

Yet, the Red Wolves manufactured enough successful drives to place themselves in the red zone and forced the offense to confront scoring situations -- some of which went well regardless of preparation for them.

ASU scored three times Friday. Senior wide receiver Kirk Merritt caught a touchdown pass from junior quarterback Logan Bonner.

Ryan Graham and DJ Chatman, two junior transfers taking part in their first spring at ASU, added one rushing touchdown apiece. Yardage for individual plays was not kept, however total stats from the scrimmage were.

Among the positives, ASU's defensive line rolled up 15 sacks against a starting offensive line missing four of its five projected starters to injuries.

For the defense, Friday was a good time to examine how fluid communication between first-year defensive coordinator David Duggan and ASU's linebackers is flowing. Although the scheme mirrors those of past seasons under former defensive coordinator Joe Cauthen, Duggan uses new terminology when calling plays or making assignments.

"Learning the new terminology, once you get that down, you're all set," said junior middle linebacker Tajhea Chambers, who Duggan has mentioned is one of the strongest vocal leaders on the defense.

Bonner, who is on target to assume the starting job after backing up Justice Hansen for three seasons, looked fine, too, before going down with a noncontact rib/oblique injury late in the scrimmage.

Bonner, who said afterward he doesn't think the injury is significant, completed 17 of 24 passes for 309 yards and 1 touchdown.

Junior receiver Bubba Ogbebor led all wideouts with 134 yards receiving on eight catches. Senior Dahu Green, the 6-5 transfer from the University of Oklahoma who broke his ankle in last season's opener and missed the remainder of the year, had 127 yards on five catches.

Early in Friday's scrimmage, it became obvious ASU's new offense under first-year coordinator Keith Heckendorf will focus on speed and tempo. Often, ASU did not rest for more than 10 seconds from the time one play died until the next one began.

"We like to play fast," Anderson said. "We're all-in with how we want to play. You've got to play clean and move the chains to be able to do that."

Bonner said he's comfortable with the speed of ASU's new offense and expects it to become even faster as the Red Wolves install more of the scheme.

"We threw the ball deep down field pretty well," Bonner said. "Guys were running really well. Overall, it was an OK day. There's a lot to improve on, too."

ASU's next scrimmage is scheduled for Friday. It will be the team's final scrimmage before the spring game April 20.

"For me, the progress between now and next Friday is huge," Anderson said. "We've got to see some drastic changes in some people."

Anderson said the progress he hoped to see from the first scrimmage to the next is "consistency and getting rid of self-inflicted mistakes" and turning the ball over in the red zone, which happened once on a fumbled snap.

Sports on 04/06/2019

Print Headline: ASU gets glimpse of work left to do

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