Who’s Hauling Rocks for the Red Wolves?

Running Back is an Area of Opportunity for Arkansas State Football

When was the last time you were really excited about Arkansas State’s run game? Was it when the diminutive Warren Wand was Mario Carting across the gridiron? Or do you pine for those days when Michael Gordon used his combo of power and speed to invade goal lines? Personally, the last time I was truly fascinated by the Red Wolves run game was Marcel Murray’s freshman season in 2018, when he compiled 860 rushing yards and eight touchdowns (plus a pair of scores from the air).

Since then, the Red Wolves have featured an abysmal run game, culminating last season with a soul-crushing 128th national ranking in rush production. As a result, the once dynamic Red Wolves offense has been reduced to a single dimension, putting way too much onus on the quarterback to make pass plays.

A heavy plate of responsibility has been laid at the feet of the offensive line, which has seen too little long term investment and too much reliance on signing transfers, adding JUCOs and praying for results. But you can also apply blame to the running back corps itself – a position group that sometimes has size and sometimes has speed and sometimes has depth, but rarely seems to have all three.

Coach Butch Jones seems to recognize that the running back room at A-State requires more attention. Since his arrival in 2021, Jones has made it a priority to bring veteran talent in from P5 programs while making sure to include 3-star RB signees in his 2022 and 2023 recruiting classes. While those talents mature, who can Red Wolves fans count on to haul rocks in 2022? Let’s take a look.

#34 Marcel Murray, rJr

After that magic 2018 season, Murray has endured both injury and coaching change, which had him briefly dipped into the transfer portal after compiling a mere 105 yards in four game appearances last season. However, Murray is back and he looked solid in the Spring. Is Marcel finally ready to add to that incredible freshman debut?

#XX Brian Snead, rJr (transfer Ohio State/Austin Peay)

A transfer added fairly late to the roster, the former Ohio State runner average 5.4 yards per tote for Austin Peay in 2021. At 6’1″, 212 pounds and a former consensus four-star prospect, Snead certainly fits the Jones profile for size.

#2 Johnnie Lang Jr., rSr

“Lang looks completely different this year,” said Jones, referring to the strength and conditioning put in by Lang in the offseason. While the Iowa State transfer is better known for his kick returns, don’t discount seeing Lang appear in the backfield, where he finished second on the team with 263 rushing yards on 65 carries in 2021.

#31 Ja’Quez Cross, rFr (transfer from Purdue)

Cross was a 3-star recruit and ranked the 11th overall recruit in the state of Arkansas by 247Sports.com. The redshirt freshman had a quiet Spring, but Jones was enthusiastic in mentioning Cross as a guy to look to make an impact in 2022.

#20 Mike Sharp II, Fr

A three-star recruit in Butch Jones’ 2022 class, Sharp 2 has a shot at seeing playing time simply because the position has yet to truly find its consistent bell ringer.

Also In the RB Room

  • #24 Bobby McMillian RB 5-10 207 rFr. RS Vero Beach, Fla./Vero Beach HS
  • #35 Carl Lewis RB 5-9 165 rFr. RS Jonesboro, Ark./Nettleton HS
  • Torrance Farmer RB 6-2 225 So. TR Springdale, Ark./Coffeyville (Kan.) CC
  • Ay’Jon Green RB 6-0 220 rSo. TR Hazen, Ark./Arizona Christian Univ.
  • Casey Johnson III RB 6-0 190 Fr. HS Benton, Ark./Benton HS
  • Tyler Williams RB 6-0 190 Fr. HS Little Rock, Ark./Central Arkansas Christian

PHOTO: Mine!