JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - One thing we've learned as observers of the Arkansas State Football Program is to never assume anything and that nothing is ever as it appears to be. It's with that thought in mind that I make the statement: James Tabary appears to be a bright spot in the future of the Red Wolves.
When talking about quarterbacks and the line of succession, we need to look no further than the end of Corey Leonard's tenure and the beginning of the legend of Ryan Aplin. At one point in time, then head coach Hugh Freeze thought about letting Aplin and Phillip Butterfield split snaps. We know how this turned out, a few ACL injuries and three head coaches later, we have a record-setting QB that will never be forgotten and his name wasn't Butterfield.
This example is why I'm cautiously optimistic about James Tabary. There are a lot of things that can happen between now and then so there's some hesitation before you declare a guy the next big thing. I can say with confidence that I firmly believe Tabary has what it takes to lead the Red Wolves in the future and be a big contributor to their future success.
Tabary will get the start against Missouri State on Saturday. It's the best of bad situation for Arkansas State. You never want to lose your senior starting quarterback to injury but he won't miss significant time and it happened prior to the weakest game on your schedule. This gives your quarterback-elect a chance to get some in-game reps.
Now, to our essential question for this breakdown. Are we witnessing the Dawn of the James Tabary era on Saturday? Short-term? No. Long Term? Yes.
For any conspiracy theorists out there who believe that Fredi Knighten has made his last start and Tabary is in for the rest of the season, you couldn't be more off base. Knighten gives Arkansas State the best chance to win and his experience is what A-State needs heading down the stretch. He will not lose his job because of injury. That's why in the short-term, this could be Tabary's only start this season if Knighten's injury timetable is correct. Head Coach Blake Anderson has already said he'll likely return before the Toledo game next week.
In the long term, I really like this Tabary. Again, it's hard to tell what happens but his preparation is among the best the Arkansas State coaching staff has seen. "He prepares the right way," Anderson said at his weekly news conference, "He works extremely hard. I can promise you there's nobody it means anymore to."
Knowing what I know about Tabary, I find hit hard to believe that someone would steal the starting spot from him in 2016. Cameron Echols-Luper will be in the mix after transferring from TCU, but he'll have never made a start at Quarterback at the collegiate level after spending his time as a returner with the Horned Frogs. Cameron Birse, DJ Pearson and Carson Coats will be the returning QB's on the roster and barring a sensation transferring in or a stud freshman making splashes, I can't see anyone taking the job from a guy who prepares and works as hard as Tabary has proven to do.
It'd be real easy to look at the Missouri finish and make a snap judgement to say I'm over-hyping him, but who wouldn't have been shaky being thrust into a big game, in front of a big crowd, with his team so close to an upset of an SEC team they can taste it? I'm throwing out the rough ending to that game and basing my breakdown purely off of talent, preparation and character. In all three of those categories, Tabary gets an A+.
Missouri State has proven to give up a lot of points. They allowed 63 to Memphis in the season opener and nothing suggests that Arkansas State's offense can't do the same thing. The game sets up well for Tabary to have a big day and to put his big arm on display. I expect to see him settle in after some early jitters and make some highlight reel throws to his very talented receiving core. How can you go wrong with a passer like him tossing to guys like JD McKissic, Tres Houston, and Tyler Trosin?
The bottom line, its always hard to tell what will happen in the future. But I think we are seeing the future quarterback of the Red Wolves on the field and a guy with the potential and mind-set to do big things.
I'm excited to watch this guy play from the sidelines and get a preview of what's to come. It should be a fun day at Centennial Bank Stadium on Saturday.
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