Arkansas State’s football team is preparing for its season opener with more than Nebraska on its mind.
ASU head coach Blake Anderson’s wife, Wendy, underwent breast cancer surgery Monday. Because Anderson was with his wife in Memphis, assistant head coach Trooper Taylor conducted ASU’s weekly press conference. Taylor told the media that players and coaches were participating in a team-wide prayer at 12:30 p.m. — wherever they were on ASU’s campus.
“She means a lot to the football team,” said Taylor, who is head coach when Anderson is away.
Anderson tweeted Monday night that his wife’s surgery went well and she was resting.
“Doc was pleased with everything,” Anderson wrote in the tweet.
The Red Wolves, like Nebraska, have a young team. Defensive coordinator Joe Cauthen said ASU has 42 new players. Arkansas State’s training camp was more physical, Cauthen said, than last year’s version.
“We weren’t happy with how we started last year,” Cauthen said. ASU started 0-4. Camp was lighter last season, Cauthen said, because of concerns over depth; this year, Arkansas State has more depth, if less experience.
“We compete at the point of attack,” Cauthen said.
On offense, ASU is led by quarterback Justice Hansen, who transferred from Oklahoma. Hansen threw for 2,719 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2016. He ran for 131 yards, as well.
“The good thing with Justice is he’s 8-2 as a starter and his calm nature that we can look to,” said offensive coordinator Buster Faulkner.
More quick notes from Arkansas State:
» According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, ASU’s top interior lineman — Alabama transfer Dee Liner — may be available for Saturday’s game despite injuring his groin in mid-August. Taylor told the Democrat-Gazette that Liner will be “on the plane” to Nebraska.
» Taylor said Arkansas State’s best chance of pulling an upset is to play mistake-free football. He said his team is aware of being a large underdog to Nebraska, and he’s impressed with the Huskers’ size on the lines.
“When you see their size on defense and offense at the line position, you’ll be wondering why we came out of the tunnel,” Taylor said. “Because they are huge.”