This article originally appeared in the April 10, 2019 edition of The Herald
JONESBORO — A new quarterback will start for the Red Wolves this season. One candidate for the job is a homegrown fan favorite.
Jonesboro native and former Jonesboro Hurricanes quarterback Carson Coats will likely serve as the backup to Logan Bonner but he is looking at his final season through a positive lens.
“It’s been a dream come true. I sat in the stands cheering on Corey Leonard, Reggie Arnold, Ryan Aplin, all those guys. I idolized those guys,” Coats said. “To stand where they stood, reflecting as a senior from Jonesboro, it’s surreal.”
Coats walked on at A-State in 2015 and after leading the Hurricanes to three-straight state semifinals, earning all-conference and all-state honors along the way. In his senior campaign, he compiled 2,150 passing yards, 400 rushing yards, and accounted for 26 total touchdowns. He was named as the 6A East Outstanding Player thanks to his efforts.
Now, in his final season, Coats will have a chance to take the helm of the Red Wolf offense.
“I’m not trying to prove anything. I just want to get out there and play.
I told (offensive coordinator Keith Heckendorf) when he first got here that I just wanted the opportunity to fail,” Coats said.
A year ago, quarterback Justice Hansen led the Red Wolves to an 8-5 record and a school-record eighth-consecutive bowl appearance. Hansen was named Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year and holds several passing records at A-State.
In other words, there are rather large shoes to fill at the position this upcoming season.
Keith Heckendorf, the first-year offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the Red Wolves, said the quarterback competition is no secret.
“There’s a major void that someone has to fill,” Heckendorf said. “Bonner has done a lot to put himself in position to take the first opportunity to be that guy. We’ve got to find out who those next guys are that can step out there and play at a high level.”
With spring practice underway and the spring game coming up April 20, there is plenty of time for Coats to assert himself as the true second (or even first) option to lead the 2019 Red Wolves.
Head coach Blake Anderson called the senior a coach on the field.
“He’s earned the opportunity (to compete). Carson knows what we’re doing as well as anybody. He’s going to get a shot, he just has to make the most of it when he gets it,” Anderson said. “He always knows where everyone is at and it allows him to manage the game well. If he’s playing, he has to be the smartest guy on the field.
Whether or not Coats sees significant playing time or not this season, he has prepared for his shot for years. Whether in the weight room, film room, or on the field, he said he has done everything he can to prepare him for this situation.
“I feel strong and ready to go. I’ve spent a lot of time in the meeting and film rooms preparing my mind for this. Now it’s just putting it all together on the field.”
The Red Wolves kick off their season on Aug. 31 against SMU.
When the opportunity comes knocking, Coats will be ready.
In this story, my beats overlapped. Originally, I was covering Arkansas State spring practice when this story came to mind. A Jonesboro native with a chance to play for his hometown team was a no-brainer for a profile. Journalists h to save steps when possible, so using sources easily available to get a fresh story was a fun experience.
This story contains timeliness, proximity and, in a way, conflict with the quarterback competition at A-State.
I didn’t experience any real issues with this story. All sources were very willing to comment on the quarterback situation and gave plenty of insight.
After writing it, I sent it to The Herald and it got published in the next issue. The whole process was fun and fairly easy.