Arkansas State enters the 2017 season with a lot of confidence.
Red Wolves are coming off a Cure Bowl victory, first under Blake Anderson.
They also return the Sun Belt's player of the year in defensive end Ja'Von Rolland-Jones. Quarterback Justice Hansen returns too. Hansen went 8-2 as a starter in 2016, but this time last year he was in the middle of a quarterback competition. The redshirt junior didn't take over until game four. He also had a veteran offensive line to lean on.
This season that's not the case. The entire O-Line has to be replaced. Throughout camp, coaches have been mixing and matching with personnel. That's where Jaypee Philbert comes in.
Philbert a graduate transfer from Iowa State is eligible to play right away and that's the intention. Coach Anderson recently told media you don't bring in a fifth year guy unless you intend to use him.
On paper, Philbert is impressive. Listed at 6'5", 314 lbs. He has spent the last two seasons with the Cyclones, appearing in two games in 2016 and ten in 2015.
Coach Anderson gives new players some time to get adjusted before answering questions from the media. On Wednesday, August 9th, Region 8 Sports was finally able to catch up with number 55 on the Red Wolves roster.
"The progression is going really well, came in early summer so able to get acclimated," Philbert siad.
"Really thrown into the fire ever since and so far have been doing a pretty good job. I have to get better of course but everything is going perfect."
Philbert has played the new guy role before with the expectation of contributing.
"When I was recruited out of junior college to Iowa State I was a veteran there on the offensive line technically coming in as a junior college transfer so the position there puts a lot of weight on your shoulders at first but if you are able to thrive in the moment you should be fine and that's what I've been doing."
A-State doesn't expect Philbert to just contribute, they want him to be the bell cow of the offensive line. He has invaluable experience playing in the Big 12, and that experience can go a long way.
"The biggest thing to me was come in not be afraid to be a leader. That's what Coach Anderson, Coach (Allen) Rudolph, Coach (Buster) Faulkner have all been telling me. Come in and step up and lead. We know you can do it, we just need an older guy to come and push the younger guys. I've been trying to do that to the best of my ability. "
So how good is offensive offensive line group?
"We're nasty. It's a physical group. We are still trying to focus on details here and there but overall we just get after it. We smash mouth every play."