Arkansas State Notes
Note: All senior profiles have been linked to their names, but have not been filled out yet. They will be filled out once 2018 tape is available.
The Arkansas State Red Wolves are an interesting case study both in terms of NFL talent and college success. Despite going 6-2 in the Sun Belt they finished 7-5 on the season last year. The year prior? They finished 7-1 in conference play, yet only managed to 8-5 in total. The team is built around a high flying offense that averaged just under 38 points per game last year. Last year's game with the Miami Hurricanes would have been a good litmus test for this team's potential long term, but it was canceled due to Hurricane Irma's untimely arrival
Leading the team is quarterback Justice Hansen who transferred out of the Oklahoma program as a freshman but found his way back to the FBS level after a short time in JUCO. Hansen has shown an ability to work up the field with an effective short game that is based on rhythm and ball placement. He's tough, decently athletic, and finds ways to keep that offense moving. His production is bolstered by a lot of screens and YAC, but he has shown potential as the field general for the team. The physical limitations, particularly with his arm, are going to be the biggest roadblock in Hansen's attempt to go pro. His arm strength is not enough to make downfield throws or capitalize on narrow windows. It's worsened by his struggles with timing and weight transfer, as he often comes out late and ripping it without proper lower body mechanics. If Hansen can take a significant step forward in his mental processing, which he seems capable of doing, he could be a late round selection for a team looking for a career backup.
At 6'3" Hansen is by no means a giant, but he can look like one when standing in the backfield with Red Wolves back Warren Wand. Don't let the 5'5" listing fool you, though. Despite being one of the shortest backs in college football he packs plenty enough power to break through arm tackles against the Sun Belt competition. Wand is listed by NFL Draft Scout as running a 4.38 40-yard dash, but there is very little chance he ever turns that onto the football field. Wand relies on decent vision and a head of steam to pick up yardage. He lacks breakaway speed or elusiveness to make opponents miss in the open field, but there is hope for him as a bottom of the roster guy. Look for him to be utilized more frequently as a pass catcher this season. He can be trusted to haul in passes if the ball is in the vicinity. It would be tough to visualize Wand getting an opportunity beyond a camp roster or practice squad spot at this point, but maybe there is athleticism to be unlocked that hasn't shown through.
If we're still on height differentials, the one between Wand and wide receiver Justin McInnis is over an entire foot. McInnis is listed at 6'6" and 200 pounds, but he may be closer to 215 pounds. As expected with most bigger receivers he has trouble with his routes and can't effectively change directions. McInnis is a trustworthy target who can consistently bring in passes that come inside his catch radius, but he'll need to prove his jump ball ability in earnest. McInnis rarely elevated over defensive backs and did not show off an ability to stretch out and make a difficult catch. His limited route tree and one trick pony game will make him a tough sell as a draft pick.
Offensive tackle Lanard Bonner was the most impressive pro prospect in Little Rock from what I saw. He played right tackle for the team, but may be suited best on the inside at he next level. Bonner is a physical and mean blocker who doesn't mind going for kill shots when he spots opportunities. He has the size and strength to move bodies around, and he maintains good leverage in run blocking situations. The biggest question for Bonner will be his pass blocking ability. He doesn't have accurate or quick hands, and may struggle to deal with speed rushers at the corner. If he can be more reliable with his run blocking domination and showcase lateral quickness he may be a draft pick in April, whether it be at guard or tackle.
The sole defensive player from Arkansas State that made my initial reports was cornerback/nickel Justin Clifton, who underwhelmed me in his performances against Middle Tennessee State and Troy. Clifton is a decent tackler who knows how to play the run game, but he isn't able to shed blocks or redirect the ball-carrier in time to shut down plays. His coverage ability is porous at best and frightening at worst. Clifton looked most at home playing as an off-ball linebacker, as he did not have to spend much time trying to track down receivers over the middle. When he was asked to play press or match his man step for step he was often multiple yards behind and unable to recover. His hand usage at the line of scrimmage wasn't enough to disrupt route timing or positioning. Despite having a solid wingspan he was unable to make plays on the ball due to how far out of the place he was. Clifton will need a significant improvement in his coverage abilities along with a potential move to safety to find NFL success.
QB Justice Hansen: Undrafted
RB Warren Wand: Undrafted
WR Justin McInnis: Undrafted
OT Lanard Bonner: Undrafted
CB Justin Clifton: Undrafted
If you'd like to read my complete notes on the prospects listed here you can do so by clicking the link below.