JONESBORO — Arkansas State football coach Bryan Harsin has a lot of ideas and thoughts about his program. But no matter how many he has or how many he shares, there’s one subject that comes up again and again when he entertains questions during speaking engagements.
Who is going to be the Red Wolves’ starting quarterback?
Such was the situation — similar to so many the past seven months — when Harsin spoke at the Jonesboro Kiwanis Club meeting during lunch on Wednesday at Barnhill’s Buffet.
Harsin is used to the questions and comes armed with plenty of information. He answers them patiently and occasionally reveals some insight into who might take snaps under center for Arkansas State this fall.
That person hasn’t been decided, yet, but it will happen fairly quickly after fall camp begins on Aug. 1.
“The quarterback position — what are we going to do? Everybody wants to know,” Harsin said. “We’ve got plenty of guys and candidates to play that position. We’ve just got to pick the right one. … We’ve got the right guy on campus. I know that. We just have to allow those guys the opportunity in camp to go compete for it.”
It’s no secret the Red Wolves are looking to replace Ryan Aplin, the two-time Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year.
A stable of hands are ready to assume the reins with as many as six candidates vying for the open position. Among them are returning ASU backup quarterbacks Phillip Butterfield, Stephen Hogan and Fredi Knighten. Joining them in the mix are Utah State transfer Adam Kennedy, junior college transfer Chandler Rogers and incoming freshman Cameron Birse.
“I’m really anxious to see how those guys come out and compete and we get a chance to work with them,” Harsin added. “I think we’ll have the right guy when it’s all said and done.”
According to Harsin, the quarterback who makes the greatest impression during the first five days of fall camp workouts will be the front-runner to fill Aplin’s shoes. But a final decision won’t be made until about 10 days before the 2013 season opener.
ASU kicks off the season against Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Aug. 31, meaning a quarterback should emerge by Aug. 21. As far as when it becomes public knowledge — that’s a different story.
“We may not say it but we will have got somebody picked (by then),” Harsin said. “We’ll have an idea and that particular player will be getting the majority of the reps. We may have not said it publicly or anything like that, but it will be done most likely amongst the team and then whenever we decide with the media and letting it all out.”
The player who wins the job will have to meet the five quarterback requirements that Harsin will grade. Qualities such as mental and physical toughness, preparedness, decision-making, accuracy and leadership will go a long way in determining who takes snaps for Arkansas State this season.
“Those are the things that we’re looking for with those guys,” Harsin said. “Guys that can do those and a guy that’s got some maturity.”
Butterfield and Hogan took the majority of snaps with team’s first unit offense during the spring game in April. But Harsin said that’s not an indication of who will be the starter this fall.
Every player is on equal footing and every player will have a chance to earn the job. “I have not ruled anybody out at the quarterback position,” Harsin said.
Quarterback wasn’t the only subject Harsin discussed.
With the season rapidly approaching, Harsin is growing anxious to begin workouts and move from the speaking circuit to the gridiron. He noticed just in the past week a change in his own demeanor following some time off and a couple of speaking opportunities.
“I’ve just kind of hit that point where it’s football time,” Harsin said. “It’s time to get to work. All this stuff, which is great, (but) it’s just time to get back on the field and get going. That really was clarified to me when I got to the media days in New Orleans, getting around the other coaches and seeing who you’re going to compete against.”
Arkansas State will host a couple of camps this week, including a team 7-on-7 camp that starts today followed by an individual camp the next day. The staff will spend the weekend together on a retreat to help them all get on the same page.
Harsin said the Red Wolves had a good spring in which he was able to put in about 80 to 85 percent of what he hoped. The team has participated in unsupervised volunteer workouts over the summer and he believes they’ll come in ready to make a run at a third straight Sun Belt Conference title.
ASU has posted a 10-3 record each of the past two years, won the SBC, and played in the GoDaddy.com Bowl.
“These players know how to win,” Harsin said. “We’re replacing some very important players, but they’ve gotten that little taste of success and I think they want to continue that. I don’t think you’ve got a lot of guys in there that feel like they’ve arrived by any means. These guys have worked. You should see them. They look better, they look bigger, they look stronger and they’re running better, and their knowledge of the game has grown throughout the summer.”