JONESBORO — Layne Hatcher’s daily competition is always with Layne Hatcher, no matter who else is playing quarterback for Arkansas State.

In that regard, Hatcher’s situation didn’t change as he moved up the Red Wolves’ depth chart to replace starter James Blackman, who is expected to miss at least a couple of weeks because of a shoulder injury.

Blackman and Hatcher competed for the position throughout preseason camp. ASU (1-5, 0-2 Sun Belt) went with Blackman as the starter in five of its first six games, but Hatcher took over when Blackman was injured midway through a 52-20 loss to Coastal Carolina and will stand behind center Thursday night when the Red Wolves host Louisiana-Lafayette (5-1, 3-0).

“We talk about playing to be the best version of ourselves, so there’s always going to be that internal competition,” Hatcher said Monday during ASU’s weekly press conference. “Having James, it’s always somebody who pushes you and you push him, and it’s a great competition there. Having that internal focus that we talk about, about just really trying to be the best version of ourselves and play to the best of our ability every play, play to our strengths, that’s something we talk about.

“I think when you have a solid foundation like that, situations don’t really affect how you approach the day.”

Both ASU quarterbacks rank among the Sun Belt passing leaders with the Red Wolves unable to consistently run the ball and struggling defensively.

Blackman, who ranks fifth among Sun Belt quarterbacks at 222.3 yards per game, has completed 59.8 percent of his passes for 1,334 yards and eight touchdowns, with four interceptions. Head coach Butch Jones said Blackman is probably three or four days ahead of schedule in his recovery after being injured Oct. 7, but still likely to miss at least a couple more weeks.

Hatcher, who threw four touchdown passes in relief against Central Arkansas and started the next week against Memphis, has completed 57.4 percent of his passes for 806 yards and nine touchdowns, with three interceptions.

Jones said the competition at the position has been good for both quarterbacks.

“Layne is a competitive individual,” Jones said. “Layne is going to compete with himself in anything that he does, but I think James Blackman has brought out the best in Layne Hatcher, and I think Layne Hatcher has brought out the best in James Blackman.”

Last year Hatcher alternated series with Logan Bonner, who followed former head coach Blake Anderson to Utah State. He has played enough in two-plus seasons to rank fifth on ASU’s career passing chart with 5,810 yards.

Hatcher said he tries to avoid what he described as “outside noise” about his position and role on the team.

“I’m trying to be the best version of myself. You can’t let all the outside noise affect you,” Hatcher said. “I delete all my social media. I try not to listen to that, I try not to watch anything. I’m worried about this team, me and being the best player and best teammate, and the best team we can be, and finding a way to improve ourselves daily.”

Hatcher faces a challenge Thursday against UL Lafayette, which ranks second among Sun Belt teams with a per-game yield of only 18.2 points per game. The Ragin’ Cajuns picked off Appalachian State quarterback Chase Brice twice last week and allowed just 211 total yards (133 passing) during a 41-13 rout of the Mountaineers.

Jones said ASU has the flexibility within its system to play to Hatcher’s skills.

“When you put your offensive system in, the first thing you want to do is you want it to be quarterback-friendly where you can adapt and adjust to the skill set of your quarterback and really to the skill set of the players around him,” Jones said. “We’ll continue to do the things that Layne does well. I think having the bye week, to be able to go back in quality control and self-scout yourself helps as well. We understand what Layne does well and then obviously what James does as well.”

True freshman Wyatt Begeal will be the No. 2 quarterback Thursday. Begeal, who went through spring practice with the Red Wolves, has not seen game action this fall.

“He wants to do his best in everything he does. He’s very talented with the ball in his hands. He’s starting to be able to make all the throws as well,” Jones said. “I think the extended repetitions that Wyatt has had in the bye week and into this game week preparation have really helped his development and growth.”