Arkansas State Coach Blake Anderson may have some worries going into this season – mainly if A-State will have a season, but who is playing quarterback won’t be a worry.
Anderson knows he has two proven QBs to choose from as fall camp began Friday. Redshirt junior Logan Bonner started the season hot after being sidelined for the season after four games. Bonner passed for 1,052 yards and 10 touchdowns with just one interception to start the year.
Some A-State fans may have panicked at that point, but Little Rock native and Pulaski Academy alum Layne Hatcher, then a redshirt freshman, erased all doubt as he passed for nearly 3,000 yards and 27 TDs with 10 interceptions leading the Red Wolves to a 6-3 record and a Camellia Bowl win against Florida International.
Still, Anderson has been adamant since spring drills that Bonner is the team’s starting quarterback. He will take first-team snaps and so will Hatcher. Anderson did say in the spring Hatcher can still win the job. Basically, Hatcher has to beat Bonner out instead of the other way around. That’s probably how it should be with injuries, especially considering Bonner had played so well before being sidelined.
A-State was one of the few teams that got most of its spring drills in before COVID-19 halted activities. During that time, Bonner looked full recovered from the injury. Barring something unforeseen, he will be the starter when, and if, the season begins.
Bonner has earned the right to have the leg up. However, winning coming out of the bullpen to lead a team to bowl game in your first season as a starter has to count for something, too. It’s pretty remarkable that Hatcher, a Pulaski Academy alum, could pull that off. No doubt his experience playing for the innovative Kevin Kelley at PA and spending season learning from Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts at Alabama didn’t hurt either. Hatcher was more than ready to play last year, and he would be a no-brainer to start A-State’s opener if it weren’t for Bonner.
This is a much tougher situation for the players than it is for the coach. One guy, who is very capable and talented, must hold a clipboard. That’s not something either QB wants to think about.
As for Anderson, he can rest easy knowing he has a proven backup. If one QB is hurt or not performing, it will make for an easy transition. The one tricky component for a coach in this situation is making sure the reserve doesn’t become complacent or frustrated. It would be a good idea to give the No. 2 guy meaningful snaps during the game and as soon as a situation calls for it, either a lopsided win or loss, get the other guy in the game.
The good news for Hatcher is he has three years of eligibility left. The bad news is Bonner has two. I know Hatcher well from covering him at PA. He will take a reserve role in stride and try to help the Red Wolves as much as possible. And he won’t quit pushing Bonner – this year or next.
Anderson is a good, fair coach, and he will handle this situation well. No matter who is at the helm should win a lot of games. The Red Wolves are loaded with experienced talent. This situation will bear worth watching as A-State tries to contend for a Sun Belt Conference title and yet another bowl game.
It’s a good problem for Anderson to have.