A-State opens spring drills in rain; newcomers don't stand out for wrong reasons
JONESBORO - Arkansas State was back on the field late Friday afternoon for the first time since competing in the 2015 GoDaddy Bowl, holding its initial spring practice in shorts and helmets in the rain at Centennial Bank Stadium.
"I thought it went well today," A-State second-year head coach Blake Anderson said. "The energy level was phenomenal. Emotions were high and you could tell the guys were ready to be out there. We've talked all along about how we've got to communicate better in every phase, so that was a big emphasis today and it will continue to be all the way through the spring. We're also stressing the need to play physical on both sides of the ball."
Coming off their fourth consecutive bowl appearance and entering their second spring camp under Anderson, the Red Wolves return 56 letterman, including 14 starters, for the 2015 season. Among the returning players are All-Sun Belt Conference selections Fredi Knighten (Sr., QB), Michael Gordon (Sr., RB), Ja'Von Rolland-Jones (So., DE), Blaise Taylor (So., CB), Tres Houston (Sr., WR), Chris Stone (Sr.,?DE) and Xavier Woodson (Jr.,?LB).
A-State was greeted by rain to start the practice and dealt with it throughout its entirety, but Anderson said the team responded well to the weather conditions.
"I don't think it bothered (the players) for the most part," said Anderson. "It played a factor in the way we threw and caught the ball, but it was really a good day in terms of people being where they were supposed to be and drills going off at a good tempo and speed. We're supposed to get better weather Monday, so hopefully next practice will be a little cleaner."
The Red Wolves will hold 15 practices as part of their spring camp, including their annual spring game at 6 p.m. April 17 at Centennial Bank Stadium. The team will hold three additional practices next week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday before Arkansas State's spring break week. A-State will then resume its practice schedule March 30 and has scrimmages scheduled for April 3 and April 10.
"I think the key early for us will be to find out how the new guys respond to install because we'll add a little more each day," Anderson said. "We're not really doing anything dramatically different, so the guys that played last year know it. The new guys need to be able to keep up with what we're doing, and hopefully they won't have a big learning curve."
Seven midyear signees who were part of A-State's 2015 signing class are eligible to participate in the Red Wolves' spring camp, including offensive linemen Joseph Bacchus and Brandon?Berg, defensive backs Cody?Brown and Allen?Sentimore and defensive linemen Waylon Roberson, Jake Swalley and Robert Mondie. East Mississippi Community College transfer and placekicker Drew White also joined the team as a walk-on and is participating in spring practices.
"I liked what I saw (from the newcomers)," said Anderson. "They didn't stand out in a negative way. ?They looked like they belong, which is sometimes hard with the tempo we go. I didn't notice anybody standing out who didn't line up where they were supposed to or looked out of sorts. ?They all seemed to have done a good job studying going into camp, so they were able to function pretty well."
All Arkansas State practices are open to the public and, with the exception of the spring game, are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m.