In essence, we’ve exchanged proven commodities for assets with tantalizing promise. The entertainment value associated with “tantalizing promise” is the elixir of season ticket pitches and offseason content like this. But tantalizing promise is also the mana of transforming a good football team into something special. Thus far, new Red Wolves head football coach Butch Jones has sipped deeply from this chalice.
But if you watched last year’s version of the team, you had to like what you saw on the floor. Omier is a double-double superstar, and the young roster can only become better by Eaton’s well-practiced hand. If ever were to come Balado’s make-it or break-it year, this is absolutely it.
Arkansas State has won six of its last eight, including two against Sun Belt West contender Georgia Southern behind masterful pitching performances that yielded all of two earned runs. Among the losses, an epic 12-15 defeat at Ole Miss, indicating that the Red Wolves bats are more than capable of producing mid-week runs against a ranked SEC opponent. Arkansas State has never been hotter in 2021, and it will need every degree of that heat in Fayetteville on Tuesday.
Remember what the great George Costanza tells us: It’s not a lie if you believe it. Everybody thinks Rowdy Roddy Piper was a great wrestler, but have you ever seen him win a wrestling match? Nope. Moxie was his greatness, and it can be the Sun Belt’s too.
Whoever or whatever is at fault, it’s now Butch Jones’ problem to fix. But let’s be real. It’s not Jones’ job (nor was it Anderson’s) to get guys into the NFL. The job is to win games (oh yeah, and to make better men or something). But you have to believe that Jones’ focus on detail and drive to smash his critics’ teeth will result in better Combine evals and Pro Day scores.
For any reason you’d like to select, NFL Drafting isn’t a top skill in the Sun Belt toolbox – not historically, nor will it likely improve in 2021. In fact, I was a bit surprised to see how few viable Sun Belt draft prospects are in this class, given how well the conference performed on the gridiron. For health reasons, my expectations are reasonably lowered.
Today, the sun shines a bit brighter for the Sun Belt, with national-scale success polishing unfamiliar luster onto the the SBC brand. Over the off season, the Sun Belt experienced its usual coaching turnover, but this time, the conference took a potpourri of approaches to filling vacant positions.
But let’s pretend these Power Five snobs decided to break away from the system that has nourished them to create a Super League. Who gets left out? Pitt? Colorado? West Virginia? Vanderbilt? Sure! But also Arkansas, Michigan State, Washington and Utah. Suddenly, those programs would feel the second-class distinction felt by a select group of programs.
What we didn’t learn was much about the 2021 Red Wolves. That’s really the function of a Spring Game – getting nothing and liking it. After all, aan offense that puts 500 yards in the Spring can easily average under 300 in the fall. All fans can really expect is to put an eye on some prospects, gauge the attitude of the new coach, and inventory the stars who are too injured to suit up.
Universities invite change, culture, exotic foreigners, weird art, spiritual awakenings, alcohol use, dancing, sexual experimentation, diversity, exposed abdomens, traffic, and a rainbow of criminal activities – drivers of growth both positive and painful that are at odds with Jonesboro’s unofficial charter of peace, quiet, and predictably. For decades, Arkansas State was viewed by many locals as a potential powder keg whose only purpose was to destroy the status quo. Jonesboro likes its quo.