Top 10 returning players at Arkansas State are headlined by EDGE Kivon Bennett

The top 10 players returning to Arkansas State are led by former Tennessee DE Kivon Bennett after he broke out in 2021.

The Arkansas State Red Wolves will once again deal with a lot of turnover in 2022. A year after watching their head coach jettison for Utah State, taking their quarterback Logan Bonner with them, they saw a mass exodus of players leave via the transfer portal this past offseason. Yet, the Red Wolves bring back a ton of exciting college football prospects in their top 10 returning players. Most notably, it should be a big change this year for Arkansas State fans, as this defense may be the best one they’ve had in some time.

For every conference’s top returning players: AACACCB1GBig 12Conference USAIndependentsMACMountain WestPac-12SECSun Belt

Top 10 returning players at Arkansas State

The countdown to the regular season continues here during Pro Football Network’s Top 10 Returning Players series. We’ve crossed the country to the Sun Belt and are firmly entrenching ourselves across the southeastern portion of the country with our look into each FBS team. Looking only at players returning to their same team from a season ago — we’ll deal with transfers later –, we’re counting down all the top 10 players returning to action on every team. Here are the top returners from Arkansas State.

10) Emmanual Stevenson, TE

A big target in the receiving game for the Red Wolves, Emmanual Stevenson quietly had a great true freshman season. He can play as an inline tight end but really shined in the middle of the season when given the opportunity to play as a stand-up receiving option. Combine that with the fact that he is no stranger to potential highlight-reel blocks in both facets, and Stevenson could develop into a top-notch TE.

9) Jaden Harris, LB

What Jaden Harris may lack in size at the linebacker position, he makes up for with his instincts and high motor. Harris understands his assignment and has a great knack for finding the football, both in coverage and against the run. He had a forced fumble and 4.0 tackles for loss because of that ability.

8) James Blackman, QB

Back to run the show on his own, James Blackman enters his second season at the helm of the Red Wolves this fall. The former Florida State quarterback threw for 1,344 yards and eight touchdowns a season ago, splitting time with Layne Hatcher and playing in just six games with five starts. Blackman’s quick delivery allows him to get the ball to the short area of the field well, but he also has plenty of arm strength to find his receivers streaking open downfield.

7) Jeff Foreman, WR

A big-play threat in his own right, Jeff Foreman has steadily increased his production over the past three seasons. Finding ways to win on the outside, Foreman is a valuable deep threat in the Arkansas State offense. He has sure hands and a documented ability to go up and win the 50-50 balls against any type of coverage defender. Foreman won’t be targeted in the short area much, but that is no indictment on his all-around ability. It’s more a praise of his ability to win downfield.

6) Melique Straker, LB

Hailing from Carleton College and not having played in live game action since 2020, it took Melique Straker a bit of time to see the field. But once he got on the field, he made a big difference.

Straker has the potential to develop into a true three-down LB. He can do everything asked of him from the weakside, but Straker’s best attribute may be his ability to cover all types of receivers on underneath routes. He came on strong down the stretch of the season in that regard.

5) Leon Jones, CB

A former two-year letterer at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, Leon Jones burst onto the Sun Belt scene in 2021. Jones recorded a team-high eight pass breakups, logging significant time against opposing team’s No. 1 wide receivers. Jones has great size and even better length at the position. He’ll help to anchor a secondary that may be better than most think in 2022.

4) Te’Vailance Hunt, WR

Averaging over 14.5 yards per catch in his first season in Jonesboro, Te’Vailance Hunt proved why he was such a highly sought-after recruit last year. Back now as the No. 1 target for his QB, Hunt will look to improve on his 740 yards and six touchdowns from last season. Hunt has a great catch radius and plays even bigger than his 6’1″ frame would indicate. His body control is well above average, and he’s no stranger to ripping off big gains after the catch.

3) Samy Johnson, CB

Leading the team with three picks a year ago, Samy Johnson presents a big challenge for opposing quarterbacks to throw against. Battling through injuries in the middle of the year, Johnson led the team in interceptions despite missing two games and starting only eight contests. Johnson latches on to the opposing receiver, and if he doesn’t make a play on the ball, it’s hard to complete anything against him due to his closing speed and knowledge of when to time his move.

2) Kenneth Harris, CB

It was just nine games a season ago but Kenneth Harris broke out. Starting the final two games of the season, Harris ultimately finished second on the team with two interceptions. This came after he started just four games a season prior and still led the team in pass breakups. He’s a sticky cornerback with great size on the outside. He limits receptions very well and doesn’t let anything by him.

1) Kivon Bennett, EDGE

An absolute wreaker of havoc off the edge, Kivon Bennett terrorized opposing quarterbacks last season. If it wasn’t his team-high eight sacks, it was his constant force against opposing tackles that pushed the pocket and disrupted QBs left and right.

As great as Bennett is off the edge, his overall team value knows no end. He’s a valuable contributor on special teams as well, blocking punts or pushing off the edge against field goals all the same. In his first season at Arkansas State, Bennett looked every bit like the four-year Tennessee veteran. He’ll have one more season to show it off again.

Honorable mention players returning to Arkansas State in 2022

  • Johnnie Lang, RB
  • Ethan Miner, G/C
  • Ernesto Ramirez, G
  • John Mincey, DT
  • Taylon Doss, S

Cam Mellor is the Senior Director of the College Football/NFL Draft vertical for Pro Football Network. You can find his writing here and follow him on Twitter: @CamMellor.

FEATURED
PFN NEWSLETTER

Every day, get free NFL updates sent straight to your inbox!