When you think of the Red Wolves the first thing you think of is offense. Typically a high-flying, explosive spread offense, it regularly sits near the top of FBS rankings in points per game, yards per game, passing yards per game, and total offense.
The thing is, the best teams/coaching staffs adapt to continue winning and sustain success. The Red Wolves must do that in 2019.
The Red Wolves defense is no slouch. They’ve had players make the all-conference defense 5 years in a row. They’ve also had defensive players of the year, as well as conference players of the year coming from the – you guessed it: defense. They routinely are near the top of FBS standing in TFL (tackles for loss) per game and total as well as sacks, and turnovers forced.
Despite the excellence of the defense in negative plays and forced turnovers, the defense is on the field quite a bit. This has been due to the fact the offense is so explosive, drives can last only a couple minutes, maybe even less. For the first time since 2015, they possess a true bell-cow at running back; one who can they can put the load on. Sophomore Marcel Murray had an outstanding freshman season last year, to put it mildly. After rushing for 860 yards on just 154 attempts for a great 5.6 yards per pop, while scoring 8 touchdowns, along with 16 receptions for 141 yards, and 2 more touchdowns he’s primed for an enormous encore this fall.
The Red Wolves don’t need to necessarily change the offense. I’m not saying that at all. What they do need to do, is utilize the talent they have in Murray. Come fourth quarters, he should receive the lion’s share of the ball. Throughout games, he should be used to relieve pressure off the quarterback. Arkansas State has been spoiled by the exploits and ability of Justice Hansen, who rewrote essentially all school and Sun Belt records for offense, total touchdowns, passing touchdowns, and yards. With a new quarterback slated to start, who will have seen barely any live snaps, or snaps of importance, now is the time to ride the running back. It will allow for the new quarterback to get used to the system, comfortable with it, and the team won’t have to rely on one player or dimension.
Run the ball more, and that’ll also allow a very talent-laden defense to do more. Imagine if the defense didn’t have to be on the field so much. The problem with spread offenses is that they often are boom or bust. This means if the home run play doesn’t transpire, or the first down play doesn’t gain decent yardage, the team will get behind the chains leading to quick 3-and-outs. This puts the defense back on the field quickly on short rest. And as the Arizona Bowl taught us (I’m sorry to bring this horrible nightmare back from the abyss) the defense is very good, but can only do so much. They were on the field so much, and held long as they could, (which was all of regulation and nearly overtime) but cracked. You can help them and the team with a change in style/philosophy.
Run a power spread. We have seen it at it’s best at Auburn, Alabama, and Clemson. Power runs out of the spread with great receivers outside, and a strong defense is actually an excellent formula for wins. This keeps the pressure off the quarterback and allows the defense to be even more effective, and later in the year as the quarterback is given more of the reigns to the offense, it becomes even better.
The Red Wolves return a great defense that should be tops in the Sun Belt this year. The defensive line and front seven are STACKED. The best cornerback duo in the Sun Belt arguably also resides in Jonesboro. Let them work. Let your running back loose. Ball control and clock control comes with that. It’ll help open up the passing game even more in a wide open offense. A dominant defense coupled with a fantastic run game, and great receivers to throw to is the perfect recipe for a Sun Belt championship this upcoming season, and a bowl win.
It’s time for a change.