Are the Red Wolves flying too far beneath the wire? Admittedly, that’s more August Content than it is June Content, so we’ll save those clicks for later. But it’s appropriate to mention now that neither Athlon Sports (no Red Wolves on the First or Second Team Preseason Sun Belt) or PFF (ranks the Red Wolves 110 out of 130 programs) have much respect for Arkansas State football.
By itself, this means nothing. Preseason pundits are only guessing and are mostly fishing for clicks like me. Still, Red Wolves fans have not been victim to this kind of hype-less season since 2010. And you wonder if the Red Wolves new head football coach takes umbrage.
In recent days, Jones has become a Level 11 Transfer Portal Mage, craftily spackling the holes in both the offense and defense with a range of college football’s malcontents. Jones has addressed problems a linebacker, offensive line, and quarterback like a Dad browsing the Home Depot.
Arkansas State’s prior head coach, Blake Anderson, wasn’t exactly shy with his transfer trigger. The Red Wolves have long been college football’s Casablanca. We’ve welcomed everyone and anyone, with a mix of results. But what we’re seeing with Jones (and with the expansion of Transfer Portal Powers) is something else. It’s almost as if he’s seen the disrespect paid by outside observers and is offended.
A Quarterback for Every Quarter
What’s happened to the quarterback room is especially intriguing – maybe even a bit messy, too. When once the roster included only two viable arms (Beagle and Hatcher), Jones has added at least six more to the mix. Check out the massive list:
|Layne Hatcher||In-Coming||Redshirt Jr|
|Brady Martin||Rhode Island||Sophomore|
|James Blackman||Florida State||Redshirt Jr|
|Allen Walters||Mississippi State||Redshirt Soph|
|Jack Hevesey||Late Commit||Freshman|
|Carson Taumoepeau||Late Commit/PWO||Freshman|
According to the all-knowing Jeff Reed of A-State Nation, all newcomers with the exception of Hevesey is a 3-star prospect, which means everybody is the film room wants to be The Guy. Jones has gone from Castaway to Hunger Games with the QB position, and one wonders who’s first to be converted to a wide receiver or linebacker.
Offensive Line No Longer Offends
As it has for the last several seasons, the offensive line is the source for too many gastrointestinal events for Red Wolves fans. Dr. Butch Jones played the role of antacid to relieve the pain, taking a double scoop from the beef bucket.
|Robert Holmes||Interior Offensive Lineman||6-4/335||Austin Peay|
|Nick Lewis||Offensive Tackle||6-9/348||Kentucky|
|Mehki Butler||Offensive Guard||6-4/355||Iowa Western|
Holmes, Butler and Lewis are three massive beef battleships who will definitely be welcomed on a line that has had too much trouble protecting the quarterback and creating running lanes. Has the O-Line been fixed? Honestly, Arkansas State can always use more offensive lineman. Jones may not be finished here.
Defense Gets Some Help
Last season, the Red Wolves defense ranked 115th in the nation and was the absolute worst in the Sun Belt. If given the opportunity to either watch the defense in action or swallow a bee, I’d take the bee. Apparently, Jones shares my chagrin, and he’s cannonballed into the transfer portal to find some much needed aid.
|Joseph Ozougwu||Linebacker||6-3/238||North Texas|
|John Mincey||Defensive End||6-3/276||Tennessee|
|Quay Mays||Defensive Lineman||6-1/300||West Virginia|
|Timothy Hardiman||Defensive End||5-11/265||Navy (flip)|
|Charles Willekes||Linebacker||6-1/225||Michigan State|
|Denzel Blackwell||Cornerback||5-10/180||Boston College|
Offensive transfers tend to receive star billing over defensive transfers, but this is quite a haul for Jones and new defensive coordinator Rob Harley. Jones was especially hungry for linebackers, probably because he reviewed last year’s film and was horrified. Look for those guys to have an immediate impact, making us forget about losing Justin Rice.
UPDATE: Butch Jones just added former Alabama corner and 4-star prospect Scooby Carter to the huddle. The talent is undeniable, but Scooby comes with baggage.
UPDATE: Scooby’s baggage came back to bite us. He’s no longer with A-State. Jones replaced him with Denzel Blackwell from BC.
Offense Recruits and Reloads
Keith Heckendorf returns to helm the A-State offense, and he’s got some fancy new weapons at his disposal. Losing Logan Bonner and Brandon Bowling wasn’t ideal, but it wasn’t a catastrophe either. The additions made are quite enticing to say the least.
|Alan Lamar||Running Back||5-9/202||Yale|
|Tevailance Hunt||Wide Receiver||6-3/200||TCU|
|Javan Hawes||Wide Receiver||6-0/183||Cincinnati|
|Khyheem Waleed||Wide Reciver||6-0/199||Boise State|
|Akeem Hayes||Wide Reciever||5-8/165||Kentucky|
|Adam Jones||Wide Receiver||6-2/188||Tennessee|
|Johnnie Lang||Running Back||5-8/193||Iowa St.|
|Jack Combs||Wide Receiver||6-0-/191||Iowa|
The wide receiving squad will have plenty of talent in 2021, with these guys joining Jeff Foreman and Corey Rucker (and heck, who knows, maybe even Dahu Green) in giving opposing secondaries nightmares. Hunt is especially intimidating at wide out, so whoever emerges from that quarterback room the starter, he’ll have plenty of options.
UPDATE: Butch Jones adds Iowa St RB Jonnie Lang to the offense, a three-star talent who has a path to reps.
PHOTO CREDIT: It’s mine, okay. Leave it alone.