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Life after Justice

Arkansas State has options to replace the graduating 2018 Player of the Year

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

He’s gone.

But Jonesboro is a town hardly lacking quarterback options.

Gone is 2018 Sun Belt Player of the Year and 2017 Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year Justice Hansen, who is currently attempting to make an NFL roster through minicamp invites.

The offensive pantry for the Red Wolves, however, is still well stocked to support Hansen’s replacement.

The heir will still have standout receivers Kirk Merritt and Omar Bayless, as well as Sun Belt Freshman of the Year Marcel Murray in the backfield.

Nothing is official or solidified yet. And none of the quarterbacks on the 2019 roster have lengthy collegiate resumes to hang their helmets on.

That said, my gut tells me that…

Bonner is the frontrunner for now

The offense is ready to prove itself in 2019.

stAte dropped a 16-13 overtime decision to Nevada in the Arizona Bowl, which featured a number of costly red zone turnovers and missed opportunities.

With a little more than three months to go before the Red Wolves kickoff 2019 with a home game against SMU, all signs pointed a couple months ago to junior Logan Bonner taking over under center for Arkansas State.

Bonner is a shade over six feet tall and weighs 206 pounds.

Last month’s Arkansas State Spring Game offered stAte fans a first glimpse at Bonner. He threw two touchdowns in the spring game, helping to set up the winning field goal as well.

In limited action the past two seasons, Bonner is 24 of 42 for 235 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Bonner’s biggest challenger for the starting job would have to be...

Layne Hatcher

We’ll call him the second-most famous Alabama quarterback to change schools in the offseason.

Hatcher boomerangs back to Jonesboro after a short stint as a backup with Alabama.

The Arkansas native originally committed to stAte, but joined the Crimson Tide after Alabama extended a late scholarship offer. Hatcher helped deliver Pulaski Academy (Arkansas) four Class 5A state titles.

Hatcher announced his decision to enter the transfer portal and subsequent decision to come to Arkansas State last month.

Hatcher never officially signed a national Letter of Intent and did not see the field at all in 2018, so he will be eligible to play immediately.

Enrolled in summer courses, Hatcher will be attempting to play catch-up with the Red Wolves’ playbook ASAP in order to get up to speed in Blake Anderson’s offensive scheme.

Waiting in the wings

Senior Carson Coats is another candidate to supplant Bonner as the backup quarterback heading into the 2019 campaign.

The Jonesboro native has not recorded an official pass attempt yet (one rushing attempt), but figures to see at least some action in the offense.

Coats completed 16 passes for 104 yards in the spring game. Having years of experience in the stAte system could be the difference—at least initially—for the offense leaning to Coats as the primary backup.

Freshmen Coltin Clack and KaRon Coleman have also taken snaps this spring. They figure to battle it out to climb the depth chart as an emergency option this fall.

And if all else fails?

Reserve receiver Darveon Brown did complete all two of his passes in 2018 for 47 yards. Add that to the 1-for-1 for 14 yards in 2017, and you have a very efficient passer rating.

It’s unknown at this time when the 2019 starter will be named. The Red Wolves begin the 2019 campaign Aug. 31 hosting SMU.