Jeff Reed: Blake Anderson Takes Non-Traditional Route


Jeff Reed Author PageIf you are looking for a nice, neat, tidy signing class, then don’t bother looking at the Arkansas State Red Wolves’ 2016 haul.

It makes a nice jigsaw puzzle, with a couple of pieces here and a couple over there and still more in other places. And a possible couple of more to come.

But at the end of the day it works and it is a class that is strong because of its transfers, most of them already on campus.

And five of those transfers began their careers in Power 5 conferences, Alabama (defensive lineman Dee Liner), TCU (receiver Cameron Echols-Luper), Texas Tech (running back Armon Wah-Wah), Clemson (receiver Chris Booker) and Oklahoma (quarterback Justice Hansen). All could have a big-time effect on the Red Wolves’ season, which begins Sept. 3 at home against Toledo.

“This is by no means a traditional recruiting class,’’ said A-State coach Blake Anderson. “We did what we did to address our needs. We have some traditional high school signees; we added some juco guys in December, and we picked up some transfers back in August.”

It was such a different class that two of the players – receiver Chris Murray (11 catches/three TDs) and Chauncey Mason – have played and will soon be wearing conference championship rings. had the Red Wolves ranked third in the Sun Belt, trailing Georgia Southern and Troy, which both have at least four more signees than A-State. And those rankings did not include Liner, expected to be an every down player on the Red Wolves’ front seven, and Echols-Luper, who was All-Big 12 as a punt returner but expected to line up everywhere from receiver, to A-back to Wildcat quarterback. Echols-Luper is one of the fastest players in college football.

The biggest need in Jonesboro was adding help at receiver where the Red Wolves lost two of their top three receivers and four of their top five for the approaching season. In a way it is similar to what the team did a year ago when it added an abundance of defensive line help to fix the Achilles heel for the 2014 team. And it is a move that will be addressed for the 2017 class with A-State having seven senior offensive linemen to replace.

Coming off their fourth conference title in five seasons, the Red Wolves have a lot of pieces in place. Replacing a special group of skill players will be the big key. And that is what Anderson and staff looked to fix.

And as with all classes, time will be the judge.

Jeff Reed is editor at

Blake Anderson announces new staffers

JONESBORO, Ark. – Arkansas State head football coach Blake Anderson has officially announced the additions of running backs coach Norval McKenzie and offensive line coach Allen Rudolph to the Red Wolves’ staff.

“We’re excited to have Norval and Allen join our staff,” said Anderson. “They are both great additions who will make a big impact for our program in all areas. Norval is a young, energetic coach who possesses great football knowledge and is well-respected by his peers. Allen not only has valuable experience coaching within our league, but I think his time in the CFL will also be a great benefit to our players.”

McKenzie comes to A-State after spending the last five seasons as a member of the Furman University coaching staff in a variety of roles, including running backs coach, special teams coordinator and recruiting coordinator.

During his time with the Paladins, McKenzie coached a pair of All-Southern Conference running backs and two others who were named to the league’s All-Freshman Team. Jerodis Williams was a two-time All-SoCon choice after rushing for 2,225 yards and 20 touchdowns over his junior and senior campaigns, in addition to earning All-America honors in 2012 when he led the FCS in kickoff returns (35.9 avg., 2 TDs).

McCloud, who completed his career ranked 10th in Furman rushing history, garnered all-conference recognition in 2013 after running for 1,110 yards and five scores. Triston Luke rushed for 385 yards and a pair of scores in 2015 to find a place on the league’s All-Freshman Team, while Marcus Anderson earned the recognition in 2013 when he posted 334 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

McKenzie helped lead Furman to a 2013 SoCon championship and several victories over FCS nationally-ranked teams, including No. 5 Wofford in 2011. The Paladins also knocked off then-FCS member and No. 3-ranked Appalachian State in 2011.

A Powder Springs, Ga., native and former football standout at McEachern (Ga.) High School, McKenzie was a four-year football letterman for Vanderbilt (2001-04), where he rushed for 1,411 career yards. He battled back from a serious leg injury his sophomore year to lead Vanderbilt in rushing as both a junior and senior.

McKenzie was a rare triple major, earning an undergraduate degree in secondary education, political science, and American history in 2005. He completed his master’s degree in education at Vanderbilt in 2010.

Following graduation, he began his coaching career at Hiram (Ga.) High School, working two seasons there before returning to Vanderbilt as a graduate assistant coach for the 2008 and 2009 campaigns.

The 2008 season saw him help Vanderbilt post its first winning season (7-6) since 1982 and a 16-14 victory over Boston College in the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl – the program’s first bowl victory since 1955. McKenzie assumed the duties of assistant recruiting coordinator, while also helping with player development and coordinating the Gridiron Club for former Commodore letter winners, in 2010.

Rudolph, a 21-year coaching veteran, comes to Arkansas State after most recently spending the last three seasons as the offensive line coach for the Canadian Football League’s (CFL) Hamilton Tiger-Cats. His time with Hamilton saw him help lead the team to the playoffs every year, including appearances in the 2013 and 2014 Grey Cup.

Prior to joining the Tiger-Cats, Rudolph spent the 2012 season as the offensive line coach at Northwestern State after stints at Southeastern Louisiana (2007-11), Samford (2005-06), East Mississippi Community College (2004), Louisiana-Monroe (2002-03), Mississippi College (2000-01), Copiah-Lincoln Community College (1999) and Nicholls State (1995-98). In addition to serving as the offensive line coach at all his collegiate stops, he also acted as the offensive coordinator his last two seasons at Southeastern Louisiana, his two years at Samford and his only season at Copiah-Lincoln.

His lone season at Northwestern State saw the Demons rush for 2,115 yards, which were the program’s most in 20 years. Additionally, Northwestern State posted its most yards total offense (4,475) and touchdowns (44) since the 2009 season.

Rudolph was a member of the Southeastern Louisiana coaching staff the previous five years, including the 2010 and 2011 seasons as Lions offensive coordinator. The Lions enjoyed two of their most productive seasons in school history, averaging 402 yards (ranked fourth all-time) and 29 points per game in 2011. The Lions’ passing yards (3,170) and total offense (4,420) both ranked third all-time at SLU.

His first season directing the Southeastern offense, Rudolph guided the Lions to their sixth-best mark in average total offense (364 ypg), while totaling 4,000 yards total offense. He coached two players during his time at SLU who went on to NFL careers, including offensive tackle Kevin Hughes and wide receiver Brandon Collins.

Prior to his arrival in Hammond, Rudolph spent two seasons as the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at Samford. He joined the Samford staff after coaching the offensive line one year at East Mississippi Community College and the same position group at Sun Belt Conference member Louisiana-Monroe in 2002 and 2003. While with the Warhawks, he tutored 2003 Second Team All-Sun Belt Conference selection Bruce Hampton.

Rudolph spent two seasons (2000-01) at Mississippi College before moving west along I-20 to Monroe. In addition to his duties as the Choctaws’ offensive line coach, Rudolph also served as the team’s strength and conditioning coach. He was also was the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at Copiah-Lincoln Community College in 1999 before his stint at Mississippi College.

Rudolph got his start at Nicholls State, where he coached from 1995-98. In his first three seasons with the Colonels, he coached the tight ends and tackles before switching duties to running backs and tight ends, as well as coordinating the special teams in his final two seasons.

He was a four-year letterman at Nicholls (1989-93) and served as the team’s starting center for three seasons. He was one of the Colonels’ team captains in his junior and senior campaigns. A Jackson County, Miss., native, Rudolph earned his bachelor’s degree in American studies from Southern Mississippi in 1995.

Jeff Reed: Blake Anderson Takes Non-Tradtional Route


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