2022 G5 Preview: It's Going To Get Worse Before It Gets Better, Arkansas State
Arkansas State is coming off a 2-10 season, loses four starting offensive lineman and almost its entire secondary. Let's, uh, give Butch a few more years.
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Arkansas State didn’t look like a program in serious need of a rebuild when Butch Jones took the job ahead of the 2020 season. The Red Wolves went 4-7 in Blake Anderson’s final season, sure, but they had been to nine bowl games and claimed five league titles in the nine years prior despite cycling through four coaches in as many years from 2011-14. Arkansas State traded top-end talent for consistency when it hired Anderson and fell a bit from the top of the league, but its status as a very solid team — especially in the otherwise weak West division in 2018 and 2019 — looked as cemented as ever.
Even around it in the West, it isn’t like a new team jumped up and ate its lunch. Louisiana developed into a beat under Billy Napier, but South Alabama is still in the jungle, Louisiana Monroe died a decade ago and Texas State doesn’t have any football players.
And yet, Arkansas State went 2-10 last season. It can make a reasonable claim that at least a few of its five one-score losses to Georgia State, Louisiana, Memphis, Texas State and Tulsa should have gone in the other direction, but it was crushed by Georgia Southern and Washington teams that fired their coaches after the season, dismantled at home by Appalachian State and Coastal Carolina and 30-pieced by a South Alabama team that one week earlier lost to ULM. The Red Wolves were plagued by one of the worst run defenses I’ve ever seen and a coverage unit that wasn’t a whole lot better while struggling to gain any sort of yardage on the ground offensively behind a bad line.
The passing game, with Layne Hatcher and James Blackman at quarterback, was just about the only real positive. Well, that, and a freakishly, abnormally good pass rush that ended up not mattering at all in most games.
Somehow, that’s the good news. The bad news is that nearly the entire offensive line is gone, Hatcher has transferred to Texas State, leading receiver Corey Rucker is transferring too, and five secondary contributors are out. Arkansas State has a few pieces to be excited about, but there’s no dancing around it. The outlook is bleak this season.
Let’s start instead with those positives because that’s more fun and there are a few to note.
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