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Opponent Preview: Arkansas State

Believe it or not, it’s actually time to start doing summer previews of Texas’ opponents. We’re still a good six weeks from actual football, but at two previews a week (one of which I’ll be traveling), now’s about the time to dive in.

So, yeah. Football talk is heating up.

Game 1: Arkansas State at Texas
Saturday, September 1st, 2007 • DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium • Austin, TX • (Time TBD)

Arkansas State Offense

Starters Returning: 7
Lettermen Lost: 9

2006 stats (NCAA Rank)
Rush Attempts per game: 42.3 (6)
Rush Yards per game: 167.7 (29)
Rush Yards per attempt: 3.97 (57)
Passes Attempted per game: 35 (96)
Pass Yards per attempt: 5.8 (105)
Points per game: 15.2 (109)

The Indians struggled to put points on the board last season, in large part because of heavy turnover from 2005, but also because the team was hamstrung by injuries throughout the year. Additionally, Arkansas State played most of the season with redshirt freshman quarterback Corey Leonard.

The unit's bright spot was along the offensive line - one of the Sun Belt Conference's best - but four starters depart. The Indians possess excellent depth at the position though, so players with experience are stepping into starting roles in '07.

At the skill positions, Arkansas State is in much better shape than they were at this point last season. Quarterback Corey Leonard is a terrific athlete (116 rush attempts, 554 yards) who is improving his passing (49% completions, 1,321 yards, 8 TD, 8 INT). He's got quick feet, a big arm, and big play ability. With a year of experience, improvement is expected, giving Arkansas State a much better situation than last for the 2007 opener.

In the backfield, sophomore Reggie Arnold picked up over 1,000 yards in 2006 (5.1 per attempt) despite suffering an ankle injury in the fifth game of the season. He returns, along with sophomore Cedric Wilkerson (368 yards, 4.2 per attempt). Arkansas State will start two seniors at wide receiver, along with junior tight end David Johnson.

All told, if Arkansas State's offense can have a healthier year in 2007, they're certain to be significantly better than a year ago.

Arkansas State Defense

Starters Returning: 7
Lettermen Lost: 9

2006 stats (NCAA Rank)
Rush Attempts per game: 32.8 (35)
Rush Yards per game: 148.5 (76)
Rush Yards per attempt: 4.5 (98)
Passes Attempted per game: 23.1 (5)
Pass Yards per game: 160.9 (12)
Pass Yards per attempt: 7.0 (58)
Points per game: 24.1 (69)

The pass defense, strong in 2006, is poised for an outstanding season, with a trio of seniors and a junior returning in the secondary. That group was the Sun Belt Confere's best last season and could very well be better this year.

The front seven isn’t as strong, though they possess a solid amount of experience. Seniors Curtis Bonds and Prince Hickman man the middle of the D-Line, but they struggled to get penetration on good offensive lines. The linebackers are viewed as a weakness heading into the season, making the Indians ripe for running on.

The Gameplan

Arkansas State Will Win If: John Mackovic is retained for coaching duties. Seriously, Texas would have to completely collapse to lose this game.

With that said, the Indians’ are strong in the one area that should help keep things from getting ugly – pass defense. If Arkansas State can keep McCoy from getting in a good rhythm with his receivers, it’s possible the Texas run game could struggle like it did last year. In that case, the game won’t quite be the halftime blowout that most expect.

Texas Will Win If: They don’t implode with turnovers. The talent edge is so severe in this contest that Texas can (and probably will) play things conservatively as they try to establish the running game and wear down Arkansas State.