June 28, 2011

Freeze takes reigns for the Red Wolves

Virginia Tech will face off against the Arkansas State of the Sun Belt Conference on September 17th.

The Hokies will face a very different Red Wolves team from a year ago now with first-year head coach Hugh Freeze at the helm.

What is expected of Arkansas State this season? Hokiehaven.com caught up with the Wolves play-by-play broadcaster and Voice of the Red Wolves, Matt Stolz to answer that and much more inside.

What changes are occurring with first year head coach Hugh Freeze especially with his move from offensive coordinator to head coach?

"First of all, the hiring of Hugh Freeze has energized the fan base at Arkansas State. In his first year at Arkansas State, Freeze's offense set nine school records, including total offense, with over 4,800 yards in 2010. This team will be all about speed on both sides of the ball...and for Hugh Freeze, the pace can't be quick enough."

What style of offense and defense can be expected from the Red Wolves?

"The offense will be extremely fast, with not much time to catch your breath between plays. They'll spread you out and you'll see a lot of different looks...the Red Wolves always have a trick or two up their sleeve.

"Defensively, new coordinator Dave Wommack comes to Arkansas State with one of the most impressive resumes around. His group shined in the spring and they'll play a very aggressive style, with a lot of different looks."

The offense for the Red Wolves improved dramatically last season under Freeze, what do you attribute that to and what can be expected this year now with him as the head coach?

"Freeze brought a whole new style and a new pace to the offense in 2010. While it was very fast last year, Freeze would like to hit another gear in 2011. Another big reason for last year's success was the rise of QB Ryan Aplin. He had a terrific sophomore campaign, setting single season school records in completions (252), touchdown passes (21), passing yards (2,939) and total offense (3,416). Expect Aplin to have another big year in 2011."

The defense struggled last season, what differences are expected this year to see it improve?

"Before last season, the Red Wolves' defense finished first or second in the Sun Belt for four consecutive seasons. That was not the case in 2010. New defensive coordinator Dave Wommack now brings a new look to the defense. There's a lot of talent on that side of the ball, with a lot of guys returning. With a low scoring Spring Game that ended with a final score of 13 to 7, Wommack's impact has already been felt. Expect a very aggresive defensive mentality from the Red Wolves."

Who are the big playmakers for the team this year on both sides of the ball?

"When you talk about the playmakers for this team, you have to start with QB Ryan Aplin. Not only did he break several single-season school records last year, but he finished tops in the Sun Belt and in the top 20 in the nation in total offense. Not only can he throw it, but he was the Red Wolves' second leading rusher in 2010, finishing with 477 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns. Aplin also has several great targets to throw to. WR Dwayne Frampton finished with 69 receptions in 2010, to go along with 738 yards and six touchdowns. Six-foot-4 WR Allen Muse (42 receptions, 635 yards, five touchdowns) and 6-foot-4 WR Taylor Stockemer (34 receptions, 560 yards, five touchdowns) are also big targets capable of making big plays. Defensively, senior safety Kelcie McCray (79 tackles in 2010) is team's leading returning tackler. LB Demario Davis (63 tackles, two interceptions) is also capable of making a big play at anytime. The defensive line is led by Dorvus Woods (45 tackles, three sacks in 2010) and Brandon Joiner (34 tackles, four sacks)."

What is the biggest strength for Arkansas State at this point coming out of spring ball and heading into the season?

"The biggest strength comes at the skill positions...QB Ryan Aplin, WR Taylor Stockemer, WR Dwayne Frampton, WR Allen Muse and TE Kedric Murry are all all-conference caliber players."

What is the biggest weakness going into fall camp?

"The biggest weakness is inexperience on the offensive line. While there will be talent in that group, the Red Wolves lose six offensive linemen from 2010, including 4 starters."

What is the honest best-case scenario for Arkansas State in their matchup with Virginia Tech?

"The Red Wolves have a huge amount of respect for Virginia Tech. They know this will be a huge challenge, but Arkansas State is no stranger to playing in big-time environments...and they will come in expecting to win. The Red Wolves' have a habit of playing very well against big name opponents, including a 2008 win at Texas A&M. Last season, the Red Wolves scored 26 points at eventual national champion Auburn."

What are the expectations for Freeze's first year as a head coach, particularly after a 4-8 season last year for Arkansas State?

"The Red Wolves finished a disappointing 4-8 in 2010, but five of those losses were by a touchdown or less. Expectations are for a winning season and a bowl berth in 2011."

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