It’s dull to belabor a point. By now, you’ve read a trillion twitter posts and a billion Facebook opinions concerning the horror of the Red Wolves’ defense – currently ranked dead last in FBS football. What good does it serve to stir this toxic cesspool of missed tackles, blown assignments and overall poor technique? You can’t make bricks without straw, and you can’t be a world-class defense without speed, strength and size.
I invite you to join me in moving past this True Crime critique of the Arkansas State Red Wolves and leap forward into what can be salvaged after a 1-3 start to the season. Sift with me through the statistical rubble and unearth the anecdotal intangibles that gives me hope for the remainder of the season.
The Receiving Corps is Damn Good
The most satisfying aspect to Red Wolves football today – and for the last several seasons – is the wide receivers. How gratifying was it to see Dahu Green put up some solid numbers against Tulsa? How tremendous is the addition of Te’Vailance Hunt? Is Corey Rucker from outer space? How is it that Jeff Foreman is, like, a third option?
The Tandem of Joe Ozougwu and Kivon Bennet has Lived Up to its Billing
While gaps are continuously missed on the defensive line, Ozougwu and Bennett have done their part to apply the pressure, combining for 7 sacks on the season (a very evenly distributed 3.5 QB dumps apiece). For all the is frustrating on the defensive side of the ball, at least Arkansas State is getting after the quarterback again.
Special Teams Are Not a Problem
Last season, it seemed that the Red Wolves special teams was a revolving door of crippling opposition touchdowns and juicy field position. This season, not only are the Red Wolves routinely booting kick-offs through the end zone, we’re nailing 50 yard field goals, applying fundamentally sound tackles and (as we saw against Tulsa) even putting points on the board.
Coach Butch Jones Likes the Team’s Heart (and so do I)
Listen, I know we’re treading dangerously close to “Champions of Life” waters here, but these Red Wolves have played from behind all season long and (discarding the terrible Washington game) have lost by five and seven points. The team hasn’t given up. Butch Jones has not given up on this team. He sound liked a man encouraged by what he saw, even in defeat, during the Tulsa postgame presser.
The Howlraiser Dark Emotions Board is Darkish
Red Wolves are Currently a 2-Point Dog to the Miserable Georgia Southern Eagles
If you think Arkansas State is a shit show, please turn your attention to Statesboro, where the also 1-3 Eagles have fired a head coach who has led them to three bowl games in four years. Chad Lunsford arrived to Georgia Southern with expectations to lift the Eagles out of Tyson Summer’s mediocrity. And he kinda did! Lunsford went 28-20 and demolished a significant number of steel chairs in his tenure.
However, it became clear that Lunsford might have been losing control of his team, especially after this incident before Week 4’s home loss to Louisiana:
Now the Eagles move forward with interim coach Kevin Whitley, formerly in charge of cornerbacks. Georgia Southern ranks 124th in defending the pass, so Whitley probably had plenty of time on his hands to take over.
All Things Considered, Eagles Played the Cajuns Pretty Tight
Gerald Green, the 5’9″ 200-lb bowling ball, piled up 186 yards and three touchdowns (including a 76 yarder) in a 28-20 loss to Louisiana. Before Saturday, Green had been a fairly dormant running back, with senior Logan Wright (who’s more of a receiving threat) splitting carries. Green’s breakout game might be a signal that the Eagles have found their featured player.
On the other side of the ball, the Eagles kept the Cajuns powerful running game in check – just 129 yards and a score. But the Georgia Southern secondary made an all-star out of Levi Lewis, who tossed three TDs on 250 efficient yards. Still, the run defense kept the Eagles in the game versus the once-ranked Cajuns. They shouldn’t have much trouble with the Red Wolves 116th ranked rushing attack.
Will the Eagles Rally Behind the Coaching Change?
The Vegas line opened at +4 and dropped to +2 when Lunsford’s firing was made public. Read into that what you will. But we’ve all seen teams enjoy an adrenaline boost with a coaching change. We’ve also seen chaos and disorganization. I’m leaning to the latter.
Who Needs to Wolf Out on Saturday?
Since we’re laying off the Red Wolves defense, we’re going to apply our hypertrichosis to Coach Ryan Aplin and the super-struggling run game. Last week, we were convinced there was nothing wrong with the rush attack that a liberal application of Lincoln Pare couldn’t fix. This week, we have no answers. The Eagles rush defense isn’t great (though it was pretty great against the Cajuns), but it will be another test of Aplin as he attempts to loosen the gears in what looked like a squad on the rise this Spring. Maybe we get to see Marcel Murray again?
Going Deep on the Two Deep
Not much movement in the two-deep from last week to this week. However, Marcel Murray is notably removed, with Lincoln Pare officially taking the #2 spot.
|QB||James Blackman||Layne Hatcher|
|RB||Alan Lamar||Lincoln Pare||Marcel Murray|
|TE||Reed Tyler||Emmanuel Stevenson|
|WR||Jeff Foreman||Adam Jones|
|WR||Corey Rucker||Reagan Ealy|
|WR||Te’Vailance Hunt||Dahu Green|
|LT||Andre Harris||Noah Smith|
|LG||Ivory Scott||Makilan Thomas|
|C||Ethan Miner||Jacob Still|
|RG||Ernesto Ramirez||Justin Dutton|
|RT||Robert Holmes||Wyatt Luebke|
|DE||Joe Ozougwu||Thurman Geathers|
|DE||Kivon Bennet||TW Ayers|
|DT||Terry Hampton||Quay Mays|
|DT||Vidal Scott||John Mincey|
|LB||Anthony Switzer||Cam Jeffery|
|LB||Cabel Bonner||Derrick Bean|
|LB||Dane Motley||Jeffmario Brown||(or) Jaden Harris|
|S||Elery Aldexander||Antonio Fletcher|
|S||Taylon Doss||Trevian Thomas|
|CB||Jarius Reimonenq||Denzel Blackwell|
|CB||Leon Jones||Samy Johnson|
|K||Blake Grupe||Aidan Ellison|
|KR||Marcel Murray||Lincoln Pare|
|PR||Johnnie Lang||Lincoln Pare|
Out With Your Prediction, Knave!
Both teams are 1-3, achingly one-dimensional, and are nursing hurt feelings over the blows to their legacies. I think the Statesboro dysfunction is deeper than Jonesboro’s. I think the Red Wolves have more pieces in place than the Eagles. And though the Eagles have home field advantage and a possible regime-change boost, I think Arkansas State has more vested in the outcome of this game than a program currently seeking a new head coach.