In football the most important position on the field is quarterback. No matter who your offensive coordinator is or how good the weapons around your quarterback are if you don’t have that leader under center things can go from good-to-bad very quickly. Just look at Arkansas State last year and ask the fans how important it is to have that “guy”.
In the Red Wolves second game of 2015 they welcomed the Missouri Tigers to Jonesboro for a huge home game. With the game being at home and the offense being led by quarterback Fredi Knighten, there was hope that the Red Wolves could take down the back-to-back SEC East champs. After a close competitive game, Knighten would go down with an injury late in the third quarter and would not return to the field.
A-State had opportunity-after-opportunity to steal a win late in the game versus Missouri, but just couldn’t get the offense moving after Fredi went down and the Red Wolves would end up falling 24-20 to the Tigers.
Redshirt-freshman James Tabary who came in the game late in the third for Knighten would start the next three games for A-State. The Red Wolves handled Missouri State as well as Idaho, no problem, but a road game at Toledo would show how important having that “guy” would be as the Red Wolves would get rolled over 37-7.
Fredi Knighten returned the next game against South Alabama and led the Red Wolves to a 7-0 record to close-out the regular season as the starting quarterback. Once again, another Sun Belt Championship made the trip to Jonesboro.
Now that Knighten has graduated, who’s next?
RS JR James Tabary:
A redshirt sophomore in 2016, threw for 788 yards 4 touchdowns and 6 interceptions while completing 62% of his passes last season. Tabary who is listed at 6’2 and about 195lbs has all the talent you need at quarterback. He is tall in the pocket and has a very strong arm. But, seeing him in action last season after Fredi went down it was clear that he was just not experienced at this level yet. So it will be interesting to see how he comes out this spring after another season of growth. Coming out of High School James was listed as a 3 star recruit out Holy Cross High School in New Orleans, Louisiana. In 2013 Tabary was selected to the Louisiana Sports Writers Association Class 5A All-State Team. During his senior year at Holy Cross he threw for 2,272 yards and 16 touchdowns to only 5 interceptions.
RS JR Cameron Birse:
Birse managed 4-out-of-4 passing in 2015 for 37 yards and will be another guy to look at. Birse is a big target under center for A-State listed at 6’2 and 218lbs. Cameron hasn’t seen a lot of playing time while at A-State, but coming out of High School there was some excitement around him coming to Jonesboro. In his senior year Birse put up 3,007 yards passing and 31 touchdowns. Following his senior year Birse was selected to the All-East Bay team and also was one of two quarterbacks to play for the USA under 19 National Team.
Someone I’m personally interested in:
D.J. who was a three star recruit in the 2015 class out of Northview High School in Duluth, Georgia for A-State and was listed as the #4 quarterback coming out of the state of Georgia. Pearson was a two sport athlete in High School playing baseball and football. Pearson who is 6’2 and around 190-195lbs gives the Red Wolves more of athletic option in the back field similar to Fredi Knighten, but brings more size to the table. D.J. who was second team All-Region 6-AAAAAA in 2014, threw for 2,013 yards and 17 touchdowns to just 5 interceptions. He was also involved in the running game rushing 40 times for 201 yards.
My dark horse to watch this spring:
Hansen who is 6’4 220lbs three star recruit out of Butler Community College was a nice pick up for A-State in the 2016 class. In the 2014 class he was a four star recruit out of Edmond, Oklahoma for the Oklahoma Sooners. Hansen was the fifth ranked dual threat quarterback in the 2014 class nationally and was ranked second in the state of Oklahoma. Hansen also received offers from Arizona State, Arkansas, Auburn, Kansas State, Missouri, Ole Miss, and Texas A&M. In his senior year at Santa Fe High School, Hansen threw for 966 yards and 8 touchdowns before missing the last three games with a ankle injury. During his junior year he put up 3,079 yards and 36 touchdowns with 9 interceptions. Hansen also had the opportunity to play in the Under Armor All-American game. While at Butler Community College Hansen threw for 1,694 yards and 12 touchdowns with 2 interceptions. He completed 163 out of 211 pass attempts for a 77.3% completion percentage.
With so many of these quarterbacks having little to no experience on the field at Arkansas State, it’s sorta hard to break down who may be the guy going into fall camp. But, with that said I think the Red Wolves will be fine in 2016 at the position. My prediction going into fall camp will be a race between Tabary and Hansen. Last season we saw glances of the talent Tabary brings to the table. I just think he needed the rest of 2015 to grow up in the system and work on some things. So this fall he will have had another spring and offseason to work on his product. With Hansen all you have to do is look at his recruiting profile and you can see that people are very big on him. So will that follow him onto the field? Who knows really, but I think coming to A-State gives him a shot to prove that he is as good as the recruiting experts believed he was.