Looking at Georgia’s 2019 opponents: Arkansas State

Where: Sanford Stadium, Athens
When: Noon, Sept. 14
TV, radio: ESPN or ESPN2, News 95.5 and AM-750 WSB
Previous game: Murray StateNext game: Notre Dame

The Red Wolves are coming off an 8-5 season that included an overtime loss to Nevada in the Arizona Bowl. Arkansas State tied Louisiana-Lafayette for first place in the Sun Belt Conference’s West Division, but after the bowl loss, coach Blake Anderson replaced both of his coordinators.

On the field, four key players were seniors, including the conference’s player of the year, quarterback Justice Hansen, and its defensive player of the year, edge-rusher Ronheen Bingham. Also gone are two All-Sun Belt team members.

Here’s a look at what the Red Wolves bring into the new season:

Players to watch on defense

William Bradley-King. At 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds, Bradley-King plays the Bandit position in the Red Wolves' defense. He recorded six sacks last season while playing in only five games. His time was limited because of Ronheen Bingham, who was the Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year as a senior last season. Bradley-King seems well-positioned to pick up where Bingham left off.

Forrest Merrill/Kevin Thurmon. These guys are mentioned jointly because they provide a stout tandem in the middle of Arkansas State's defensive line. The defensive tackles combined to record 7.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss. With Bradley-King, they give the Red Wolves a solid defensive line.

Players to watch on offense

Logan Bonner. The junior quarterback leads the competition to replace Justice Hansen, last season's Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year. Hansen passed for 3,447 yards (286-of-434, 65.9 percent) last season, with 27 touchdowns and nine interceptions. For his career, Hansen passed for 10,133 yards. On the other hand, Bonner attempted only 32 passes last season, completing 15 for 181 yards and a touchdown. In two seasons, he has completed only 45 percent of his attempts.

Kirk Merritt. A senior, Merritt was the Sun Belt Newcomer of the Year last season as a junior-college transfer from Texas A&M. Merritt, who redshirted as he sat out the 2016 season at Texas A&M – after playing at Oregon in 2015, caught 84 passes last season. The Red Wolves ranked first in the Sun Belt in passing offense last season, and Merritt contributed 1,005 yards receiving.

Marcel Murray. The Sun Belt Freshman of the Year in 2018, Murray gained 860 yards rushing (5.6 per carry) and scored eight touchdowns.

Arkansas State’s Georgians

The lead player of the seven from the Peach State is Murray, a running back from Hiram who played at a Hiram High School. The other Georgians are:

Dane Motley, a freshman linebacker (Alpharetta/Alpharetta HS), Preston Johnson, a junior wide receiver (Atlanta/Arabia Mountain), Jerry Jacobs, a junior cornerback (Atlanta/South Cobb), Tajhea Chambers, a junior linebacker (Gordon/Tift County), Antonio Fletcher, a sophomore defensive back (Lithonia/M.L. King) and Bryan Terry, a sophomore cornerback (Marietta/Pope).

Before the Red Wolves face the Bulldogs

Arkansas State plays at UNLV on Sept. 7, its first road game of the season after opening at home against SMU. The Red Wolves played host to UNLV last year and pulled out a 27-20 victory. The Rebels project to finish among the bottom teams in the Mountain West (and in FBS), and SMU is thought to be a mid-pack team in the American Athletic. Arkansas State may be favored in each game, so with decent play from their new quarterback, the Red Wolves could be undefeated when they arrive in Athens.

The last time against Georgia

The Bulldogs and Red Wolves last met in 2001, when Georgia won 45-17 in Athens. Their only other meeting came in 1997, a 38-7 home victory for the Bulldogs.

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