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Arkansas St. 43 Georgia Southern 25: Five Takeaways

Red Wolves Take First Step Down Path to Sun Belt Title Defense

NCAA Football: Cure Bowl-Central Florida vs Arkansas State Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the dust has settled on the first Sun Belt conference match up of the season for the Red Wolves and the season is off to a 2-2 start, here are some thoughts about where the team is at.

Safety B. J. Edmonds flies around and is not afraid to strike a blow (sometimes TOO fearless).

The sophomore safety from Mobile, Alabama was all over the field against the Eagles, tallying 11 tackles in the first half alone. But late in the second quarter, Edmonds was called for targeting and ejected from the game after a head on collision with Georgia Southern QB Shai Werts, keeping him out of the second half and the chance to add to his total. Edmonds has nearly surpassed his tackle total for all of last year in just four games and with his headhunting nature, look to see more tackles and hopefully less ejections as the season goes on.

If QB Justice Hansen was completely healthy, 400 yards passing per game would be realistic.

Hansen was obviously not 100% on Wednesday night against Georgia Southern but still managed to throw for 316 yards on just 12 completions (26.3 YPC). He is averaging 325 yards passing per game and take into account that he only played a quarter and a half against SMU and still managed to pass for 234 yards. If the Red Wolves O-line can keep him upright and healthy, there is no reason that 400 yards a game is not an unrealistic number.

Speaking of the passing game, is this the best receiving corps that ASU has ever had?

QB Justice Hansen has plenty of targets to get the ball to and he has definitely spread the wealth around between the wideout, A-back, and tight end positions. Against Georgia Southern, the breakout star of the night was A-back Chris Murray who torched the Eagle secondary with 188 yards and two TDs on just five catches. ASU has five players with at least 15 catches each on the season led by Murray with 18 total. Omar Bayless and Christian Booker both have 15 catches along with TE Blake Mack and Kendrick Edwards who tally 16 each. That many potential targets will continue to make it hard for opponents to focus on just one playmaker.

The defense is definitely missing a healthy Dee Liner upfront.

Even though he only recorded 34 tackles last year, 10 of those were tackles for loss. Along with being the run stopping fire plug presence up the middle, Liner also spent a lot of time blowing up blocks and getting into the backfield to cause mayhem. This year Liner has zero tackles in three games while trying to play with a groin sprain. ASU’s rushing defense is giving up 231 yards per game which ranks them 118th in the nation and without a doubt, doesn't have the same ability in the middle to stop the run without a healthy Liner along the line.

ASU’s Adidas jerseys look bush league and everyone is noticing.

NCAA Football: Arkansas State at Nebraska Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

There was a lot of excited chatter among the fans about new uniforms this year from Adidas until they took the field and no on could figure out what the block of goo above the numbers actually said. Many high profile teams wear Adidas and they have definitely stepped up their NCAA presence but this is one that can go straight in the fire after the season. Even ASU System President Chuck Welch took to twitter to confirm the administration’s displeasure:

Seven conference games remain in the season and most likely ASU will be favored in almost everyone of them. If Justice Hansen can remain healthy at QB and the defense can do a repeat of 2016 by starting to gel as well as tackle better, then the Red Wolves will have a legit shot at a conference title.