Optimism is trending up at Arkansas State

After 40 days and nights of staggering in the wilderness, fans are seeing the sun rise on the Red Wolves

Lately, news from head women’s basketball coach Destinee Rodgers have taken the form of airy and enticing teasers on Twitter:

Rogers has had reason to be cheerfully cheeky. In recent weeks, she’s added five transfers to the program: her sister Wynter Rogers (West Virginia), 6’3″ junior forward/center Cheyenne Forney (Denver), 6’4″ forward Emma Imevbore (Lamar), 6’1″ sophomore Kendra Gillispie (Baylor) and sophomore Bre Sutton (ULM). They join returning SBC Newcomer of the Year Izzy Higginbottom and top rebounders Anna Griffin and Melodie Kapinga. The team that won seven of its last eleven games got bigger and faster, and hope rebounds eternal.

The machinations behind Men’s hoops is just as encouraging. By replacing the unpopular Mike Balado with the fresh and wooly visage of Bryan Hodgson, the program was instantly shined for fans wanting a change in leadership. The Hodgson Effect bore significant gravity, pulling promising Red Wolves like Terrence Ford, Izaiyah Nelson and Caleb Fields out of the transfer portal while attracting soft-touch bigs Dyondre Dominguez, LaQuill Hardnett and A-State legacy Freddy Hicks Jr into the fold.

The trio of big men may be just the beginning for Hodgson, who still has scholarship cap room to play with. The additions are good, and the inclusion of Hicks is a great storyline for those who remember his father playing for the 1999 NCAA Tournament team, but Hodgson’s feat of bringing hot-handed freshman Terrence Ford and maturing shot-blocking Izaiyah Nelson back to the huddle has fans believing that if anyone can bring off the supernatural trick of carrying the program back into the postseason, it’s Bryan Hodgson.

Since this story posted on April 27, Hodgson has pulled off another Herculean feat, landing former 4-star recruit and Arkansas Razorback shooting guard Derrien Ford to the roster. Suddenly, the Red Wolves are bulging with talent!

Somehow, Football Takes a Back Seat

It’s possible that nobody is enjoying the emerging success of Arkansas State basketball more than Butch Jones. No longer the lone focal point, Jones can quietly go about his business of rebuilding a program that is dangerously close to being overrun by former punching bags like Georgia State and Texas State.

Despite sharing the spotlight, the hope bubbling out of the football field house is palpable. For example, former wide receiving star Corey Rucker is back, and it seems to have given the spirits of fellow wide receiver Jeff Foreman a bump (if the energy displayed at the Spring Game is any indicator).

What appears to be giving Red Wolves football fans an incentive to believe is the focus on the offensive line. Once understaffed, inexperienced and even undersized, the offensive line unit boasts as many as 17 players โ€“ behemoths each and every one. The fantastically mullet-ed Jacob Bayer (Lamar transfer) is collecting praise at center, and Ole Miss transfers Hamilton Hall and Jalen Cunningham are entrenched on the offensive first team. The frustration of watching a run game halted behind the line of scrimmage may be over.

The Beef Wagon has arrived

Of course, there is always room for concern

We’ve been blinded by our Scarlet-tinted glasses enough times to know that where there are roses there is also shit. Does Bryan Hodgson have what it takes to lead a program on the floor? The additions to Women’s hoops are intriguing, but has the team added enough scorers? We’ve waited two years to see improvement from the football team; do the Red Wolves have a QB that can elevate us to a win over a conference opponent that isn’t ULM?

Angst is the Red Wolves Fans brand. Our logo is gnashed teeth. Our battle cry, a weak sigh in the cold night. But I can’t help but to feel a warm glow that comes with wandering in the right direction. The needs are many, but Vice Chancellor for Athletics Jeff Purinton seems to have the problems under control. Perhaps over time the problems will be solved!

I have faith.

PHOTO CREDITS: a mix of my own and Arkansas State Athletics