Jeff Reed: Bowl Game in Reach for Red Wolves Despite Youth on Lines


Jeff Reed Author PageUpon seeing the Arkansas State Red Wolves’ football schedule last spring, a friend made the comment “if we can make it to November we will be OK.”

It’s November, and so far the Red Wolves (5-3, 3-1 Sun Belt) are in pretty good shape after just completing a three-game road swing – the only team in the league to face that burden.

The most realistic of Red Wolves figured the team might be 6-2 at this point. But when it came time to face SBC rival UL-Lafayette, the Cajuns had too much muscle and won a scoring match 55-40.

What happened in Lafayette on ESPN2 was a pretty good snap shot of where the Red Wolves’ program is at this point. While the team still has a lot of star power and big-play options, the well-documented coaching attrition of recent years has taken its toll on the offensive and defensive line.

As we speak, going into Saturday’s home contest with South Alabama, the Arkansas State has been operating with an offensive line of six regulars. Kyle Harris, a junior college signee who joined the program in January, is the backup center and at both tackles spots. There have been others who have gotten some spot play, but the five starters and Harris are pretty much it.

On the defensive side, Dexter Blackmon, a fifth-year senior who started at junior college and is playing his third season in Jonesboro, is the main experience on the interior. So much of college football line play is controlled by guys who have been there for three, four or five seasons and the benefits of nutrition programs and top-notch weight workouts. In other words, they are men and the Red Wolves have been forced to help patch their interior with true freshmen.

While the rookies have played well, you are asking a lot of kids who were playing high school competition 12 months ago to line up against 21, 22 and 23-year olds.

There are those of us who have been around, yes the term old school fits, who still believe the game is won by controlling the line of scrimmage. And the last two games, the loss at ULL and a victory over Idaho, exposed those shortcomings on defense. We expect the remaining teams on the schedule to attack there too.

What does help as we head in to the homestretch is the Red Wolves play well at home. Utah State is a good team that the Red Wolves beat in Jonesboro. And there are victories over Montana State and UL-Monroe.

Red Wolves coach Blake Anderson and his staff have survived the growing pains and you have to be pleased with the job they are doing at this point. Defensive coordinator Joe Cauthen is a favorite among a lot of fans for his no frills straight-forward comments. And it doesn’t hurt that he is doing a good job with the defense, a unit that is now becoming more patchwork with injuries.

A fourth straight conference title will need some help and ULL and Georgia Southern, which did not have to play either the Red Wolves or Cajuns, are playing well.

Still, with three of the final four games at home a strong finish and a fourth straight bowl game is a possibility.

* * *

Jeff Reed is editor of

red wolves look to black out jags


Tags: ,