Arkansas State

Spring optimism: Auburn’s Nick Marshall improving his passing skills

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Nick Marshall’s always had a strong arm and was often lethal on play-action last fall, but per Jay G. Tate of AuburnSports.com, the Tigers quarterback has become a better overall passer this spring.

Of course, everyone is “improving” or “developing” during spring practice, which wraps up about four and a half months before the 2014 season kicks off. But perhaps there’s something to this, given Marshall was still a relative greenhorn running Gus Malzahn’s offense last fall. Via Tate:

It’s clear that Lashlee and coach Gus Malzahn are placing more emphasis on the passing game this spring. Marshall, whose development will determine just how far Auburn goes with that passing game, is inspiring widespread confidence.

Lashlee said Marshall now is showing the kind of next-level awareness shown by Ryan Aplin, who thrived for this same offensive brain trust at Arkansas State. As a senior in 2012, Aplin impressed Lashlee and Malzahn by suggesting adjustments and challenging ideas with structured arguments.

Granted, Arkansas State and the Sun Belt is a few rungs down the ladder from the SEC, but Alpin completed 68 percent of his passes for 3,342 yards with 24 touchdowns and four interceptions in 2012. He wasn’t the kind of threat Marshall is with his legs (104 attempts, 438 yards, 6 TDs) but there is precedent for a quarterback to put up elite-level passing numbers in Malzahn’s system.

There’s more from Malzahn & Co. in Tate’s article on Marshall’s comfort level and fit in the Tre Mason-less offense, too, so go check that out.

Wild ending leads to Arkansas State upset of Ball State in GoDaddy Bowl

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Maybe Arkansas State should just hire interim coach John Thompson as its permanent coach.

For the second-straight year, Thompson picked up the pieces of a coaching staff in turmoil — the result of Brian Harsin being hired away by Boise State — and led the Red Wolves to a postseason victory, this time defeating favored Ball State, 23-20, in the GoDaddy Bowl in Mobile on Sunday night.

This one featured a wild finish, as Ball State rallied from a 16-10 third-quarter deficit to take a 20-16 lead with 1:33 to play.

But ASU came back and went 59 yards in five plays, with Fredi Knighten finding Allen Muse for a 13-yard touchdown pass to put the Red Wolves up, 23-20, with 32 seconds left.

The Cardinals weren’t finished. Keith Wenning passed Ball State into Red Hawk territory, then completed a first-down throw to Willie Snead with two seconds left at the ASU 36 yard line. A late hit penalty advanced it to the 21 and BSU had a chance to pull out the victory with a field goal.

But Scott Secor’s 38-yard attempt was blocked and ASU secured the wild win.

The Red Wolves finished up the year 8-5, while Ball State fell to 10-3.

With the loss, the Cardinals dropped to 0-7 in bowl games. Arkansas State moved to 2-2 in bowls and can now embark upon its coaching search with a little bit of momentum behind it.

Sneak Peek: 2014 GoDaddy Bowl

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WHO: 7-5 Arkansas State (Sun Belt Conference) vs. 10-2 Ball State (MAC)

WHAT: GoDaddy Bowl (15th year)

WHERE: Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Birmingham, Ala.

WHEN: Jan. 5 at 9 p.m. ET

WHY: For the third consecutive year, Arkansas State goes into its bowl game without its head coach, while Ball State will be looking for its first bowl win in seven tries.

The Red Wolves lost Hugh Freeze to Ole Miss in 2011, Gus Malzahn to Auburn in 2012 and this year saw Brian Harsin head back to Boise State, which means defensive coordinator John Thompson will run the team for the second-straight postseason. He’ll have a tall task trying to contain Ball State’s high-scoring offense.

The Cardinals averaged 40.1 points per game and are led by quarterback Keith Wenning, who threw for 3,933 yards and 34 touchdowns with just six interceptions. Wide receiver Willie Snead was his main target, with 97 receptions for 1,429 yards and 14 scores. Tailbacks Jahwan Edwards and Horactio Banks combined for 1,459 yards and 20 touchdowns. So this is a balanced, dynamic attack.

The Red Wolves were not quite as proficient on offense, but they did get a solid season from dual-threat quarterback Adam Kennedy, who threw for 2,337 yards and 11 touchdowns and rushed for 514 yards and four scores. The ASU rushing attack is pretty good, churning out yards at the rate of 207 per game.

Will the Red Wolves falter as the result of another postseason filled with coaching turbulence?  Will the Cardinals finally get that bowl victory? Our guess is ‘yes’ on both accounts.

PREDICTION: Ball State 38, Arkansas State 17

Charlie Strong: ‘no tolerance’ for any mistakes by Michael Dyer

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So, yeah. The Michael Dyer to Louisville thing is officially official.

It’s so official, in fact, that Dyer had to sign a behavioral contract to play for the Cardinals in addition to his grant-in-aid, per coach Charlie Strong.

“There will be zero tolerance,” Strong said Monday. “But I will give him [Dyer] every opportunity to be successful.”

Dyer brings two seasons of 1,000-plus yards rushing to the Cardinals from his time at Auburn, but plenty of off-the-field baggage as well. It’s been a year since Dyer has actually played football, but the UL coaching staff clearly feels he could contribute.

Still, it’s not like Louisville absolutely needs Dyer — at least not as much as Dyer needs Louisville. The Cardinals have one of the best quarterbacks in college football in Teddy Bridgewater and return some key offensive weapons. Dyer, should he be in shape and able to compete, will help the offense, but not necessarily carry it.

That would still be okay with Dyer.

“I was looking for something other than a great football program,” Dyer said in a statement last week confirming his transfer to Louisville. “I wanted a support system that would continue help me develop socially, emotionally and spiritually.”

Strong is willing to give him that support.

“I can’t change his past, but I hope to build on his future,” Strong said.

Report: Michael Dyer headed to Louisville

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Teddy Bridgewater may have been on to something when he said Louisville would “take in and welcome” former Auburn and Arkansas State running back Michael Dyer.

Though Cardinals coach Charlie Strong said during AAC Media Day that Dyer was not part of the program, a report from George Schroeder of USA Today indicates that could change soon.

Citing Dyer’s mentor, Arkansas Baptist president Fitz Hill, Schroeder reports that the running back will enroll at the school and report for camp next week. According to a previous report from the Louisville Courier-Journal, “[a]n official with U of L’s registrar office confirmed that the university added Dyer to its system… which is often an indication a prospective student plans to apply for enrollment.”

Louisville has not commented on the report — Dyer issued a statement this morning confirming it, however — and likely won’t until Dyer is officially enrolled.

If/when that happens, Dyer apparently won’t be doing it on his own dime. Schroeder’s report says that Dyer was offered a scholarship to play for the Cardinals, which he accepted.  Dyer had previously expressed interest in transferring to Arkansas, and went so far as to say he’d be willing to walk on and pay his own way.

That, by Dyer’s own admission, was a result of the off-the-field baggage he’s been carrying around for the past couple of years.

“I understand the reasons I am in this situation. I placed myself here. I take responsibility,” Dyer said in a recent interview with ESPN. “But I’m not the same person I was. I’ve changed. I’ve grown up.”

That’s something Hill corroborated in an interview with the USA Today.

“Based on what he has done at Arkansas Baptist College, I don’t have one negative,” Hill said. “I can’t talk about (what happened at) Auburn or Arkansas State, but I can talk about Arkansas Baptist College. It’s been all positive.”

Whether or not that’s true remains to be seen, but there’s little doubt the Cardinals would be getting a great talent in the backfield that could provide yet another boost for a team with possible BCS championship hopes.

In January of 2011 as a freshman, Dyer was named the offensive MVP of Auburn’s BCS title game win. After rushing for 1,000 yards each of his first two seasons with the Tigers, Dyer was granted a release from his scholarship in January of 2012, one month after he was suspended for the Tigers’ appearance in the Chick-fil-A Bowl for failing multiple drug tests.  He transferred to Arkansas State that same month in a reunion with former AU offensive coordinator and then-ASU head coach Gus Malzahn; six months later, he was dismissed by Malzahn for “undisclosed violations of team rules.”

In August of 2012, Dyer landed at Arkansas Baptist, where he sat out the football season to focus on academics. Because Dyer completed his associate’s degree, he would be cleared to play immediately and have two years of eligibility remaining should he choose to utilize them both.