JONESBORO — Junior quarterback James Blackman is out for an undetermined period of time because of a shoulder injury and junior defensive lineman Terry Hampton will miss the rest of the season after suffering a knee injury, Arkansas State head coach Butch Jones said Monday.
Blackman started five of ASU’s first six games. He was injured during the first half of the Red Wolves’ 52-20 loss to 15th-ranked Coastal Carolina last Thursday.
Sophomore Layne Hatcher, who started against Memphis, will work as the Red Wolves’ No. 1 quarterback as they prepare for an Oct. 21 home game against Louisiana-Lafayette. True freshman Wyatt Begeal will be the second-string quarterback.
During his television show Sunday, Jones said Blackman will be out for “an extended period of time.”
“We still don’t know the time frame on that,” Jones said during the Sun Belt Conference media teleconference Monday. “Obviously it will be Layne Hatcher moving forward and Wyatt Begeal as the No. 2 quarterback, and we have to develop a No. 3 quarterback. The great thing is Layne has played a lot of football games.
“I’ve said it time in and time out, we had two starters, but now it becomes a depth issue and a concern. That is what it is and that’s why we have to do a much better job of taking hits off the quarterback and protecting the quarterback moving forward.”
Blackman, a junior transfer from Florida State, has completed 59.6 percent of his passes for 1,344 yards and eight touchdowns, with four interceptions.
Hatcher, a sophomore, has completed 57.4 percent of his attempts for 906 yards and nine touchdowns, with three interceptions. Begeal, a mid-year signee from Cibolo, Texas, who went through spring practice, has not seen game action.
Hampton had two solo tackles before being injured during the second quarter of Thursday’s game. He has started 19 games during his career with the Red Wolves, including each of the first six this year and all 11 last season.
“Unfortunately Terry Hampton has been lost for the year. Right now the deficiencies in our program are starting to show through with lack of depth and competitiveness,” Jones said. “Losing him, I thought he had played his best game to date. It’s a knee injury, so he’ll be done for the rest of the season. I know he’s disappointed, but he’ll work to be better for this.”
Sophomore cornerback Samy Johnson is day to day after suffering a lower back injury early in the third quarter on Thursday. Johnson was taken to a hospital for tests, but did not stay overnight, according to a team spokesman.
“He’s been in the training room and he’ll be day by day,” Jones said. “Every test that he’s done, he’s passed. That’s a real positive.”
ASU (1-5, 0-2 Sun Belt) is off this week. Louisiana-Lafayette (4-1, 2-0) hosts Appalachian State (4-1, 1-0) tonight in a game that will be shown on ESPN2.
Jones, who spoke to the Little Rock Touchdown Club on Monday, said the bye week comes at the right time for the Red Wolves.
“So many things to get accomplished. After six straight games, the first thing and most important thing is the health of our football team, to be able to come back and get healthy, and then just work to be a better football team, the small details,” Jones said. “I thought defensively (against Coastal Carolina) we made some improvements. I thought in the first two quarters, we played well enough on defense to win the game, but again, just the explosive plays, the lack of eye discipline, eye control, really reveals itself in terms of big plays.
“Then offensively it’s the same theme. We have to be able to run the football and protect the quarterback, and at times when we were able to do it, we had success, and at times we didn’t. We had too many negative yardage plays. Again, we have to make the most of the days in the bye week and we have another great challenge on a Thursday night with a very good Louisiana football team coming to town.”
The offensive line, which underwent lineup changes last week, could see another move as Jones said Makilan Thomas will continue to develop and “really use this time to maybe get into the lineup as well.” Thomas, a true freshman from Little Rock, was listed as a backup guard on last week’s depth chart.
ASU ranks last among 130 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in scoring defense (46.67 points per game) and total defense (584 yards per game). The Red Wolves are No. 6 nationally in passing offense at more than 358 yards per game, but are No. 128 in rushing offense with an average of 80.7 yards per game.
The Red Wolves are averaging only 2.9 yards per rushing attempt.
“When we have the fundamentals, the details, the pad leverage, proper head placement and hat placement, a path for the back, we have a chance,” Jones said. “But football still comes down to one-on-one matchups and when we run the football, we need to be efficient, which is a run of four yards or more, and we haven’t been able to do that.”