USC vs. Arkansas State: Q&A With Red Wolf Report


With USC vs. Arkansas State getting closer and closer, it is time to get the enemy perspective on the match up between the Trojans and Red Wolves.

RELATED: 10 Best Season Opening Wins in USC Football History

So we took the chance to ask Justin Cook of for his thoughts on Saturday’s season opener.

A: It all starts with the quarterback, Fredi Knighten.

Sep 13, 2014; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Arkansas State Red Wolves quarterback Fredi Knighten (9) throws a pass against the Miami Hurricanes during the second half at Sun Life Stadium. Miami won 41-20. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Fredi is a true dual threat quarterback who excels in the short to intermediate passes and worked all offseason to improve on the deep ball. He’s got 4.4 speed and can turn the burners on whenever a play breaks down. He had a high completion last season and had a very good TD/INT ratio. He excels with the read option since he can choose to keep it, hand it off, or have the passing route with every play. He has good eyes and sees the field really well.

He struggled early last season with having so many options but turned it on towards the end.

In order to win, Fredi will have to see the field, make proper reads, and remain calm. He’s played in plenty of big games before so the lights/fans won’t be anything new to him, and having the trust in a coaching staff for two years in a row will allow him to cut loose and play to his strengths.

Fredi had over 700 yards on the ground last season in his first season as a starter and will look to keep defenses honest by also showing off his improved arm strength/accuracy.

Q: What about on defense? Which defensive player is key to an upset?

A: On defense, the key player for me is Jake Swalley. Jake played Juco the past two seasons and arrived on campus in December after flipping his commitment from Memphis to Arkansas State. He has a high motor and seems like he can’t be blocked most of the time.

Since spring, he’s been consistently in the backfield and making plays from the inside rush position from the defense tackle spot.

What will help him have a big game is that Arkansas State has a true run stuffer that will command double teams in 330-pound Waylon Roberson and two speed rushers at defensive end in Chris Stone and freshman All-American Javon Jones.

Q: Which newcomers or returning players who weren’t that involved last season do you think could have the biggest impact in the opener and/or the season?

Jake Swalley (JUCO defensive tackle), Waylon Roberson (JUCO nose guard), Tajhea Chambers (freshman will linebacker), Daniel Keith (redshirt freshman guard), Warren Wand (freshman running back), Cody Brown (JUCO safety), Bo Sentimore (JUCO safety), and Chris Humes (safety who was injured last season) will all contribute in a huge way for Arkansas State.

Jake Swalley and Waylon Roberson will both start and be huge in both the run game up the middle and rushing the passer. They both have high motors and get a good push into the backfield on offensive lines.

The safety position has a true ball hawk now in Bo Sentimore, a guy who can knock you out in Cody Brown, and a do-it-all-stud in Chris Humes who was hurt during the second game of the year last year vs. Tennessee.

Tajhea Chambers gets the start after arriving on campus to be a quarterback, but due to the depth at the position made the switch to linebacker. The position came very natural for him and is already showing that he is ready to start over players that have played the position for years. He gets the start at Will with the suspension of Xavier Woodson and all indications at practice show that he is ready and will be a real playmaker.

Sep 20, 2014; Jonesboro, AR, USA; Arkansas State Red Wolves wide receiver J.D. McKissic (23) runs after a catch against the Utah State Aggies at ASU Stadium. Arkansas State defeated Utah State 21-14 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

On offense Daniel Keith was ready to start and play as a true freshman last season, but was hurt playing Tennessee as well. He used last season as a red shirt year and is back as a full time starter this year. He flipped back and forth all spring and fall from center to guard before finally settling at guard. He’s a brawler on the line and definitely takes exception if someone touches his quarterback. Expect a nasty streak from him on the field even though he’s an exceptionally great kid off the field.

Warren Wand was a true freshman that showed he can make all the plays all throughout fall camp. He’s got speed, agility, and even though 5’6” is being considerate, he can take on blocks as well as anyone. He was the strongest player in his high school’s history of their program and was recently quoted from the offensive coordinator at Arkansas State, Walt Bell, as saying that he is the best player on the entire team with the ball in his hands and would take him over anyone in a 1 on 1 situation.

Q: The fake punt routines were funny from our point of view and kicking off someone’s tongue is a crowd pleaser, but A-State made just 11 of 18 attempts last season while missing eight PATS. Is special teams as big of a question mark as it seems from the outside?

Q: What is the number one thing you think USC fans should know about the Red Wolves going into Saturday’s game?

The Red Wolves are a proud group of young men who know how to overcome adversity.

Sep 20, 2014; Jonesboro, AR, USA; Arkansas State Red Wolves head coach Blake Anderson prior to the game against the Utah State Aggies at ASU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Five different coaches in five years would take a toll on most people, but the Red Wolves went to four straight bowl games, winning two, and won the conference championship three of the last four years during that time.

They return their coach and are coming to USC and into the 2015 season with confidence.

They play a fast, physical, and fun to watch style of football. The offense returns most of their starters and they have upgraded all around the roster and provided themselves the depth they have lacked for years with all the coaching turnover.

They come in a heavy underdog, but that’s never stopped them from going in and competing before and they have every intention of coming in and winning. Don’t skip the game, because win or lose, there should be lots of fireworks during this match up.

Q: If you had to give a percentage chance that Arkansas State could pull off a win, what would it be?

I hate percentages! There are so many factors to consider that it’s hard to nail something down.

Just last season the Red Wolves had Tennessee on the ropes and an inch away from a first down here, a penalty that allowed the Vols to remain on the field there, and a dropped punt were huge momentum swings and difference makers in that game.

Injuries are another big thing the Red Wolves have to be cautious of since they lost so many players during the Vols game while others were injured in the opener.

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Thanks to Justin for taking the time to offer the inside scoop on Arkansas State. You can find him on Twitter @RedWolfReport.