NCF Nation: Steve Roberts

Non-AQ head-coaching moves

December, 13, 2010
There have been plenty of head-coaching moves among the non-AQ teams so far this offseason. Here is a quick primer on who is out and who is in:

Arkansas State

Who's out: Steve Roberts.

Who's in: Hugh Freeze. He served as offensive coordinator under Roberts, and this past season, Arkansas State broke nine school records on offense. His previous head-coaching experience came on the high school level and at Lambuth (Tenn.) College.

Ball State

Out: Stan Parrish

In: The Cardinals have yet to make a hire, and athletic director Tom Collins has refused to comment about his search. A few names mentioned in the local newspaper in Muncie include Stanford special teams coach Brian Polian, Indiana offensive coordinator Matt Canada and New Orleans Saints assistant Mike Neu.

Kent State

Who's out: Doug Martin.

Who's in: The Golden Flashes have not made a hire yet, but have reportedly showed interest in West Virginia offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen, who has coaching experience in the MAC as an assistant at Ohio. Ohio State assistant coach Darrell Hazell is rumored to be a candidate as well.


Who's out: Rickey Bustle.

Who's in: Mark Hudspeth. He spent the past two seasons as an assistant at Mississippi State, as receivers coach and passing game coordinator. His previous head-coaching experience came at Division II North Alabama, where he went 66-21 with five NCAA playoff appearances in seven seasons. A news conference is scheduled for later today to introduce him.

North Texas

Who's out: Todd Dodge.

Who's in: Dan McCarney. After the Dodge experiment failed miserably, the Mean Green decided to turn to somebody with previous head-coaching experience. McCarney spent 12 seasons at Iowa State, taking the Cyclones to five bowl games. He most recently served as an assistant at Florida.

Northern Illinois

Who's out: Jerry Kill.

Who's in: Dave Doeren. The Huskies have scheduled a news conference for later today to introduce their new coach, and reports the choice is Doeren. He has been a Wisconsin assistant since 2006.


Who's out: Al Golden.

Who's in: Temple must search for a replacement for Golden, who left Sunday for the University of Miami. Expect defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio to be a candidate.

Lunchtime Links

November, 30, 2010
A day after some pretty big TCU-Big East news, all is quiet ... for now.

On to some links:

Boise State coach Chris Petersen finds the loss to Nevada tough to swallow.

Petersen has been contacted by at least one school about an opening, but said he has a good thing going at Boise State.

Nevada focuses on finishing the job.

Nevada Sen. Harry Reid congratulated Nevada on its win on the Senate floor.

The Humanitarian Bowl could match up Nevada and Northern Illinois.

It was time for TCU to join the BCS party.

Fresno State is sticking behind its decision to move to the Mountain West, even with TCU gone.

Arkansas State coach Steve Roberts resigned on Monday, and he told the Jonesboro Sun, "We didn’t get to the point where we met the expectations that were created.”

Utah has been given every indication it will go to the Las Vegas Bowl.

Four keys for UCF to beat SMU in the C-USA title game.

The New Orleans Bowl is up for grabs among FIU, Troy and even Middle Tennessee -- if it beats the Panthers this weekend.

Arkansas State coach Roberts resigns

November, 29, 2010
Arkansas State coach Steve Roberts resigned on Monday after nine seasons, according to the school. Arkansas State just finished its second straight 4-8 season, and the school has reached a financial settlement with him.

Roberts went 45-63 during his career there. Arkansas State is now the third Sun Belt team in search of a new coach. Louisiana coach Rickey Bustle is out after nine seasons, and North Texas fired coach Todd Dodge midway through the season. The Mean Green are expected to name former Iowa State coach Dan McCarney as its new head coach Tuesday.

Kent State and Ball State are also searching for new head coaches in the MAC.
Ryan Aplin is Arkansas State’s starting quarterback, but redshirt freshman Phillip Butterfield did his best to make the coaching staff at least consider the possibility of a controversy.

Butterfield, who was part of the quarterback competition last season before suffering a season-ending injury during fall camp, had the benefit of taking the bulk of the first team reps this spring while Aplin was recovering from offseason shoulder surgery.

Last week, Butterfield threw five touchdowns and no interceptions in the Red Wolves' scrimmage, but he struggled some during the spring game in front of fans Saturday night at ASU Stadium.

Butterfield threw two interceptions on his first two possessions and finished with four for the game.

“Definitely a slow start. I just kind of had some jitters that I needed to work out,” Butterfield told the Jonesboro Sun. “The defense was bringing a lot of heat. They did a really good job tonight, even though I wasn’t live. They still had a great scheme, but I think once everybody got their poise, we started doing really well.”

Ultimately, Butterfield regained his composure and completed 30-of-54 passes for 235 yards and three touchdowns.

Arkansas State coach Steve Roberts praised Butterfield’s composure and said the slow start would be a learning experience as he matured.

“He’s had his ups and downs, he’s a freshman, and obviously this is a big stage for him tonight. He’ll draw a lot of confidence from the way he settled down and fought back,” Roberts told the paper. “I’m really pleased with the way he settled down and made some big-time throws and got us in some good plays. He was very, very poised for three quarters of the scrimmage.”

Last season, Aplin completed 77-of-118 passes for 889 yards, three touchdowns and six interceptions. He also rushed for 253 yards and four scores. Aplin is expected to be ready for the start of the 2010 season.
Arkansas State has named Adam Federle its new defensive line coach.

Federle, who spent last season as the defensive tackles coach and recruiting coordinator at Central Arkansas, replaces former defensive line coach Kevin Peoples, who just accepted the director of high school operations position at Arkansas.

"When it became apparent that this was going to happen, coach (Kevin) Corless and I both kept coming back to trying to pursue Adam Federle for this position,” Arkansas State coach Steve Roberts said. “He has a great familiarity with our program, shared a tremendous amount of responsibility with coach Peoples when he was here as an assistant defensive line coach. He is a great person and cares about the student-athletes and is a great defensive line coach. We are very excited about him beginning his tenure here at Arkansas State."

With Federle’s help, Central Arkansas became the top defense in the Southland Conference. It was first in total defense, scoring defense, passing defense, rushing defense, tackles for loss, first downs defense and red zone efficiency defense.

Prior to joining Central Arkansas, Federle spent the 2006-08 seasons as a graduate assistant at Arkansas State coach under Roberts.
Arkansas State is adding a new quarterback to its competition.

During Arkansas State’s fourth spring practice Monday, coach Steve Roberts had wide receiver Andre Smith take some snaps with the quarterbacks and got some good results.

Smith, a sophomore, originally signed with Arkansas State as a quarterback, but moved to receiver during last year’s spring camp. He did take limited snaps at quarterback during the 2009 season, but prior to this spring, Roberts said he wanted to make sure Smith learned the wide receiver position better before he worked with the quarterbacks.

Redshirt freshman Phillip Butterfield is the top quarterback listed on the depth chart with walk-on Seth Tripod behind him. Butterfield was in the quarterbacking competition last season before suffering a season-ending knee injury during fall camp.

Departed senior Corey Leonard was last year’s starter before injuries forced him off the field. Sophomore Ryan Aplin started three of the team’s final four games last year and won the final two to help the Red Wolves finish 4-8.

Aplin underwent surgery on his throwing shoulder after the season and has limited participation in spring ball. Roberts did say that Aplin did enough in the fall to continue to be the team’s starter.

“He proved that during the fall last year,” Roberts told media prior to spring practices. “Obviously we’re installing a new system and there are opportunities that the other quarterbacks will get during the spring. We don’t have to name a starter until before our first ballgame, so we probably won’t.”

Smith, who came into spring listed as a second-team wide receiver on the depth chart, notched stats as a rusher last season as he ran 12 times for 46 yards. With the ability to run and catch, Smith gives the Red Wolves the diversity to use him in the wildcat or as a decoy.

“Our plan from the beginning was to start getting him some reps at quarterback this week,” Roberts said of Smith after Monday’s practice. “He got more reps than we expected him to get today, but he adjusted and made some great plays. He is going to figure into our plans with some things as a quarterback next year, and I am really pleased with the way he competed today.”

Freeze becomes Arkansas State OC

February, 26, 2010
Hugh Freeze has left San Jose State to become the offensive coordinator at Arkansas State, ESPN The Magazine’s Bruce Feldman is reporting.

Freeze, who was as the high school coach for Mississippi star offensive lineman Michael Oher (the guy from the movie the Blindside), was with San Jose State for about two months before making this move. Feldman notes that Freeze wanted to be closer to his family.

Freeze replaces Clay Helton, who left the program last week to take an offensive position at USC. Belton had been with the program for a couple months after coming over from Memphis.

Freeze was actually a finalist for the Arkansas State offensive coordinator position before head coach Steve Roberts gave the job to Helton.
Arkansas State coach Steve Roberts will return for his ninth season as head coach in 2010.

The Red Wolves, who were predicted to challenge Troy for the Sun Belt title this season, lost eight of their first 10 games and quickly put themselves in a mad dash at the end season to finish the season on an upswing. Arkansas State won its final two games of the season against North Texas and Western Kentucky and finished 4-8 overall, 3-5 in Sun Belt play.

“As a result of our annual evaluation with Coach Roberts about the status of our program, we are confident the changes that are being made will assist us in making positive strides for the future,” Arkansas State athletic director Dr. Dean Lee said. “We are all working to put ourselves in the best possible position to advance this program and look forward to Steve’s continued leadership in directing our football team.”

However, as part of Roberts staying, offensive coordinator Doug Ruse was let go.

Arkansas State ranked 95th in the country in total offense with just 328.83 yards per game. The Red Wolves averaged just 22.67 points per game. They ranked 17th in rushing offense last season and this year, with a similar backfield and offensive line, finished 80th.

“Coach Ruse is an outstanding football coach and has done a tremendous job in his position at Arkansas State, but sometimes change can be healthy for your program,” Roberts said.

Arkansas State lost five games by eight points or less, including three-point losses to Iowa and SunBelt Conference champion Troy. Four losses came against teams that will play in bowl games and six against teams that finished .500 or better.

Arkansas State loses nine senior starters after this season, including defensive end Alex Carrington and quarterback Corey Leonard.

Non-AQ coaches continue to fall

December, 1, 2009
The round of coach firings, dismissals, retirements, and resignations for the non-AQ should be coming to a close pretty soon.

Akron’s J.D. Brookhart was relived of his duties last Friday, Marshall’s Mark Snyder resigned on Sunday and in a little bit of a surprise, Louisiana-Monroe announced Monday that Charlie Weatherbie would not have his contract renewed.

By my count, there’s only one coach, maybe two, that should be concerned: North Texas’ Todd Dodge and Arkansas State’s Steve Roberts. Both fell way below expectations this year and during several years prior. I think Dodge is in more trouble than Roberts, but here’s a rundown of the coaching carousel:


David Elson, Western Kentucky (0-11, 0-7 Sun Belt; vs. Arkansas State)

Tommy West, Memphis (2-10, 1-7 C-USA)

Mike Sanford, UNLV (5-7, 3-5 MWC)

Dick Tomey, San Jose State (2-9, 1-6 WAC; at Louisiana Tech)

J.D. Brookhart, Akron (3-9, 2-6 MAC)

Mark Snyder, Marshall (6-6, 4-4 C-USA)

Charlie Weatherbie, Louisiana-Monroe (6-6, 5-3 Sun Belt)


Larry Porter, Memphis (LSU RB coach)

Willie Taggart, Western Kentucky (Stanford RB coach)


Todd Dodge, North Texas (2-10, 1-8 Sun Belt): Dodge lost his final regular season game last week to finish the year 2-10. He’s 5-31 in his three years with the program and the competitiveness of the Mean Green has been hit and miss. They lost their last three games by a score, but all of those losses came to teams with losing records. However, three years is not a long time for a coach. Dodge hasn’t gotten all of his recruits in place and at least offensively, there’s a lot of talent returning.

Steve Roberts, Arkansas State (2-7, 1-4 Sun Belt): Arkansas State beat North Texas last week and should defeat Western Kentucky this week to earn a 4-8 overall record, which is a far cry from what many were expecting. This spiral started last season when the team needed a win for a bowl and the Red Wolves haven’t gotten out of the funk. Arkansas State hasn’t had a winning season since 1995, but it has had three 6-6 seasons during Roberts’ eight-year tenure.


Mike Price, UTEP (4-8, 3-5 C-USA): UTEP AD Bob Stull said Price was safe before the beatdown of Marshall, but that solidified it. Even though UTEP underachieved this season, it still showed flashes of being a potential contender in Conference USA. Price will get one more year to see if he can turn the program around.

Mike Locksley, New Mexico (1-11, 1-7 MWC): Obviously, this was not an ideal season for New Mexico, but I said all along that Locksley needed just one win to keep his job and he got it against Colorado State. However, a sub-.500 record won’t cut it next year especially with the PR nightmare Locksley put the university through this season. He’ll need to show big improvement in 2010 to stay safe.

Greg McMackin, Hawaii (6-6, 3-5 WAC; vs. Wisconsin): A lot of credit goes to McMackin for the turnaround his team has performed in an attempt to save its season. The Warriors still need one more win for a bowl berth, but they were left for dead after a six-game losing streak through the middle of the season. The Warriors have won four in a row with Wisconsin coming to town.

George O’Leary, UCF (8-4, 6-2 C-USA): A lot of people wanted O’Leary fired after last season not only for the poor results on the field, but also some of the drama off of it. But Central Florida has rallied around its embattled coach and come up with an eight-win campaign and a bowl berth. The defense has been fantastic and O’Leary should be praised for getting the program back on track.

Non-AQ camp notes

August, 14, 2009
Posted by's Graham Watson

Arkansas State loses freshman quarterback

Arkansas State freshman quarterback Phillip Butterfield will miss the 2009 season after suffering a knee injury during practice earlier this week.

Coach Steve Roberts said he felt bad that Butterfield will miss the year, but he hopes it will give him a chance to learn the system from senior quarterback Corey Leonard.

"He was doing well and we are very proud to have him as a part of our program," Roberts said. "He is a great young man and he has the skills that I think it takes for him to be successful here. We are looking forward to next year and getting him back out here."

East Carolina adds another running back

Junior college transfer Giavanni Ruffin, who played running back at the College of the Sequoias and signed with the Pirates in February, has finally been cleared to play by the NCAA Clearinghouse. Ruffin must go through the NCAA's acclimation period, which includes wearing just shorts and a helmet for the first few days of practice.

Second string running back Dominique Lindsay sat out of practice again Thursday as he continues to recover from a concussion.

Western Kentucky losses a quarterback

Western Kentucky coach David Elson announced after Thursday's practice that freshman quarterback Courtney Dalcourt suffered a torn ACL during Wednesday's practice and will miss the 2009 season.

Posted by's Graham Watson

In the Sun Belt Conference, seven of the conference's nine schools run some form of the spread.

Whether it's an option-based spread or a passing spread, Sun Belt defenses have to constantly be on alert for offenses that like to play sideline to sideline and put lots of points on the board.

Arkansas State coach Steve Roberts knows the spread well. Not only does his team play it, it was also second in the conference in defending it. So, during Sun Belt Conference media day on Monday, I asked him and defensive end Alex Carrington how they went about stopping the spread.

You guys were second in the league last year in terms of total defense and I know a lot of offenses out there play spread or some version of it. I was wondering if you could give me some insight into how to defend some of the spread offenses you see?

Steve Roberts: Well, I think for us it starts with stopping the run. In facing a spread offense, many times people look at what you're doing coverage-wise in the secondary or with the defensive back, but I think it all starts up front with the defensive line and in particular one linebacker. We use a lot of line maneuvers up front, a lot of changes in their responsibilities to confuse the offensive linemen in all their run blocking and zone blocking that you see. Changing it up on the read option as to who has quarterback and who's going to take the dive. Just try to confuse those reads for the quarterback. But I think stopping the spread offense starts up front.

Alex, what are your thoughts on that?

Alex Carrington: Pretty much the same. Once we get the run stopped then we can kind of get after it. As a defensive lineman, we love third-and-long situations. If we can get that run stopped on the first couple of possessions then we pretty much take the cake.

A lot of offensive coaches will say that it's not necessarily about scheme, it's about the guys you have on the field; the type of players that you have on the field. Is that pretty appropriate?

Steve Roberts: Oh, there's no doubt. It all boils down to the athletes that you put on the field. You can sit with a piece of chalk and win every single scheme debate as long as you've got the chalk last. But it comes down to players executing and doing what they're coached to do and technique as hard as they possibly can.