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A Pack of Red Wolves

By Emory Hunt
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Football is a game of matchups. And no one provides more difficult matchups on any given Saturday in the Sun Belt Conference than the Arkansas State Red Wolves.

Football is a game of matchups. And no one provides more difficult matchups on any given Saturday in the Sun Belt Conference than the Arkansas State Red Wolves.  Offensive Coordinator Buster Faulkner has quietly put together one of the more impressive units in the conference.  There’s a reason why Head Coach Blake Anderson and the boys from Jonesboro, Arkansas have won back-to-back Sun Belt Conference titles and have been to back-to-back bowl games.

One of the things that make college football so unique is that the wide hash marks allows you the ability to spread the field.  With wider hash marks, you can expand a defense and weaken pressure/coverage responsibilities at the same time, while also dictating coverage and potential matchups. You combine that element with tremendous personnel and now you’re cooking with Crisco.  This is why Arkansas State is a tough opponent to gameplan for and against; and also why they’re averaging 37 points per game on offense. 

When you look at the personnel the Red Wolves bring to the table, it’s a who’s who of productivity. QB Justice Hansen is a Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award candidate and a 2x Sun Belt Conference player of the week.  On the perimeter Wide Receivers Chris Murray and Omar Bayless have combined for 31 receptions, 513 yards and 6 touchdowns.  Murray was a preseason All-Sun Belt selection.  When you have a good tight end in football you are very hard to defend. When you have two, it’s next to impossible to match up against.  The Red Wolves boast two excellent options at that position with Blake Mack, who’s one of the better tight ends in college football, and Kendrick Edwards, who made USA Today’s ‘Top Newcomers’ list.  And you can’t forget about All-Purpose dynamo Warren Wand who was a preseason All-Sun Belt selection and is on the Doak Walker Watch List.

Now that we’ve set the table, here is how that group eats.

Spreading the field is a lot easier to say than apply.  Within this offense you see a lot of shifts, formations and spacing that keeps the defense off balanced. When you have receivers that can win one-on-one matchups outside the numbers, you keep them isolated. To keep the safeties away from them, you have tight ends that can get down the seam quickly, which keeps the safeties honest. You also have tight ends that can lead block from an H-Back position, which causes problems for both linebackers and safeties alike. And with the spreading of the back seven, you reduce the box for a running back that only needs a sliver of space to break free; you allow the offensive lineman to get to the 2nd level with ease and execute at a high level. 

It’s tiresome just to write about. I can only imagine how opposing defensive coordinators feel having to figure out ways to gameplan and corral a pack of Red Wolves.

Better them than me!

Emory Hunt - Emory Hunt, "The Czar of the Playbook", is a former UL Ragin' Cajun running back nw covering the Sun Belt for Southern Pigskin. His other work can be found at Twitter: @FBallGameplan