In August, I published a post titled “Arms Crossed: Red Wolves will have a monster football season,” where I implied that Arkansas State was destined for a magic season by virtue of Butch Jones presence alone. “Jones is in Jonesboro for business,” wrote I, “and he’s handed each player a briefcase stuffed with expectations.”
At the time, I was too busy polishing my scarlet tinted glasses to realize that expectations without exceptional is frustration. I had believed that this team was merely a change in leadership and an attitude adjustment away from competing again. I was wrong. I was awesomely wrong. And if I led you astray with my golly-gee optimism, I apologize.
Now we need to get behind the rebuilding of the program. If you watched Thursday night’s game against Coastal Carolina, you understand where the bar is set. Standing on the sidelines before the game, I could see the difference in size between the men in black and the men in teal. During the game, one could see the difference in strength and speed. We are running at a deficit.
Butch Jones couldn’t just pepper a few transfers into huddle and cook up wins. The cookie jar was too depleted. The Red Wolves program crested with a 9 win season in 2015 – and we stopped evolving. Arkansas State lost its best recruiter and motivator in Trooper Taylor after the ’18 season, and the quality of the program stagnated. Games were won, sure, but the excellence was gone. We coasted on our laurels.
We must recruit before we can coach our way to victory. As fans, it would behoove us to appreciate this process – which has already begun. While Red Wolves recruiting currently ranks 4th in the Sun Belt, its average quality of recruit ranks highest. Many of the players who are putting up numbers in 2021 – guys like Kivon Bennet and Te’Vaillance Hunt – will be back next season. While it remains to be seen if Butch Jones can motivate and strategize, we know for a fact that Jones can recruit and that he can Portal Poach. Let’s see the results take affect.
As cliche as it sounds, it’s time to trust the process and respect the grind. A team that turned in 4 wins last season isn’t magically doubling that total a season later. Guys like me were silly to think so. It wasn’t fair to Butch Jones, Tom Bowen, and the the players on the roster asked to squeeze water from Fritos.
Embrace the rebuild, Red Wolves. The struggle won’t be pleasant, but let’s try to take pleasure in the knowledge that better seasons are on the horizon. It’s clear that Jones will not tolerate “too many glassy eyed guys” in the tunnel after losses. Now’s the time to get tough.
And that means us, too.
PHOTO CREDIT: It be mine
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post stated that Trooper Taylor left the A-State football program in 2015, and not 2018. The responsible party is now competing for his life in a South Korean game show.