The Red Wolves future is shaped by Butch Jones and James Blackman

The senior quarterback embraces his role at Arkansas State

“Coach, it seemed like the defense played with far more energy and fire than the offense tonight. Can you explain the imbalance?”

Butch Jones stared at me for what seemed like hours, though it was only for a few pregnant moments. For a second, I thought he simply hated the question and was mentally preparing the appropriate reporter takedown. Very soon, I’d discover that it wasn’t at all a matter of disliking the question, or that he was even staring at me. He was only peering inward, flipping through his notes, seeking the proper answer.

“I might have something to do with personalty,” said Jones at last. He spent the next minute or two discussing how the offense allowed negative plays to impact their emotions while the defense was better equipped to move on to the next play. The great American philosopher Ted Lasso teaches us to “Be a goldfish,” and to forget the failures of the past immediately. Some of us can’t do that. The failures bring to bear a loud and obnoxious tuba, constantly tooting notes of regret and despair.

If Red Wolves fans were goldfish, we’d have already sold out next Saturday’s game with the UMass Minutemen. Instead, we dwell on the missed tackles, the three-and-outs, the fourth quarter collapses – and fail to move forward to what the future promises.

“My job moving forward is to get the young guys ready for next season,” said quarterback James Blackman during the same post-game press conference. It was a remarkably mature and selfless comment from the 5th-year senior – a promising talent who spent his last two years of eligibility leading an offense in midst of a major renovation. It is a thankless job, but one day, I hope we recognize the thanks we owe to Blackman.

“Getting young guys ready for next season” is the unsaid mission in Jonesboro. The boxes alongside many of the goals stated for the 2022 season will remain forever unchecked. Butch Jones and the program can’t dwell on that. The greater goal – rebuilding a team that competes in the New Sun Belt – is still ongoing.

Butch Jones recruits to the New Sun Belt standard, his prime selects focused on size and strength on the line of scrimmage, and speed at the perimeter. Meanwhile, Blackman has plenty of young talent to mentor – starting with freshman quarterback Jaxon Dailey, who finds himself clinging to the red shirt as injuries mount in the QB room. Apart from Dailey, Blackman has an entire class of offensive student-athletes in need of his guidance: Reagan Ealy, Mike Sharpe, Miller McCrumby, Daverick Jenkins, Aleric Watson, Elijah Zollicoffer, Ja’Quez Cross, Wyatt Begeal, Makalin Thomas, Noah Smith, Seydou Traore, Kyheem Waleed, and Adam Jones – JUST TO NAME A FEW. Read these names and see tomorrow. Join me in peering to this crystal ball!

Today, the Red Wolves are 2-7 and eliminated from Sun Belt contention again. It’s brutal to dwell on this, so sometimes I think about Coastal Carolina and their seemingly sudden rise to SBC domination. The reality is that the Chanticleers rise to acclaim wasn’t sudden at all – it was set in motion with thoughtful recruiting, developing young players, and plenty of patience. Arkansas State can see the same trajectory, if we chose to see it.