Arkansas State University football coach Blake Anderson said Wednesday he will no longer be in charge of the Red Wolves’ play-calling duties nor will he be the team’s quarterbacks coach or primary offensive coordinator.
Anderson said the plan for Arkansas State to bring in his play-calling successor went in motion before ASU’s 16-13 loss to Nevada in the Arizona Bowl.
“My job as a head coach and offensive coordinator is to put points on the board,” Anderson said following the Dec. 29 loss in Tucson, Ariz. “I just left too many. It’s something we’re going to have to look at in the offseason. This one goes on me.”
Shortly after the bowl, the Red Wolves fired offensive coordinator Buster Faulkner, offensive line coach Allen Rudolph and outside wide receivers coach Chris Buckner.
Arkansas State announced three new hires to its offensive coaching staff on Wednesday, including Keith Heckendorf as the school’s new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, Sean Coughlin as the new offensive line coach and running game coordinator and Malcolm Kelly as ASU’s new outside wide receivers coach.
Heckendorf, who has spent four seasons at the University of North Carolina as quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator, was hired by Anderson at Arkansas State to be the school’s tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator prior to the 2014 season, Anderson’s first full season as ASU’s coach.
Shortly after his hiring, Heckendorf rejoined former UNC Coach Larry Fedora’s staff at North Carolina for the Power 5 position.
Heckendorf, Coughlin, Kelly and new head strength coach Jake Miller, a hiring ASU also announced Wednesday, will all report to Jonesboro on Sunday.
The movement to find a true offensive coordinator for the first time under Anderson was an idea partially brought forth by Anderson, who said he seeks to reduce his amount of spinning plates as his wife, Wendy, continues an ongoing fight against triple-negative breast cancer.
The Andersons discovered Wendy’s breast cancer recurred in mid-September when she traveled to ASU’s 29-20 victory Sept. 15 at Tulsa in Okla. An official pathology report concluded Wendy’s cancer made a vicious reappearance by also spreading to the lymph nodes, rib cage, lungs and liver.
Months later, on Nov. 25, just one day after ASU completed a four-game winning streak to seal a postseason trip to the Arizona Bowl, news of Wendy’s rediscovered cancer began to spread.
The future for ASU’s head coach became clearer Wednesday as he begins to rely on delegation more than continuing to operate as the offense’s leading strategist.
“Bottom line, there’s no way to prepare for what we’re going through,” Anderson said. “It became evident to me throughout the course of the season, to make it really blunt, that I just was not doing a very good job at my job.”
The Red Wolves’ coach has led the school to five consecutive bowl appearances and seasons of 7-6, 9-4, 8-5, 7-5 and 8-5 records from 2014 to 2018.
Read Thursday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.