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Don’t Try to Throw Against the Red Wolves

By Emory Hunt
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Arkansas State is playing elite-level football on the backend and it’s being reflected in their record.

The Arkansas State Red Wolves are currently in the midst of a four game winning streak, actually winners of five of their last six games. There is a bevy of praise to go around and to explain why they are having a lot of success. One of the major reasons lies within the strength of the secondary. Arkansas State is playing elite-level football on the backend and it’s being reflected in their record.

In this day and age of college football, the passing game is king. Teams want to spread you out, use the entire 53 1/3, and maybe go uptempo or no-huddle to defeat you. It is definitely a challenging time to be a defender. One of the biggest hurdles defenses, in particular the secondary, face is matching up depth-wise with opponents third and fourth receivers. A lot of times the offense’s third and fourth receiver is better than the defense’s third and fourth corner. Also, with the advent of the ‘flex tight end’, it puts a defense’s free and/or strong safety in a coverage bind because you don’t necessarily want them becoming a target in the passing game. 

I said all of that to say this: none of it is an issue for the Arkansas State Red Wolves.

What’s impressive about the Red Wolves is that they are able to match up across the board in coverage, and also aren’t afraid to impose their will against the rush in run support. Safeties B.J. Edmonds, Michael Johnson and Darreon Jackson along with cornerbacks Blaise Taylor, Kyle Martin, Nehemiah Wagner and Justin Clifton are amongst the best in the Sun Belt Conference. They take gaining yards against them very personal. Senior cornerback Blaise Taylor is one of the all-time greats in Sun Belt history; needing only 5 more pass breakups to be the all-time leader in that category. 

One nickname you constantly hear that describes a really good secondary is the ‘No Fly Zone’. When you watch the film and break down the numbers, I would say that it aptly describes this Red Wolves secondary. Arkansas State is only allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 50% of their passes. They have also picked off 5 passes and broken up another 20 this season. That’s both activity and playmaking ability across the board. You have to give a ton of credit to Head Coach Blake Anderson, Assistant Head Coach/Cornerbacks Coach Trooper Taylor and Safeties Coach Allen Johnson for critically identifying and being able to sign multifaceted and versatile student-athletes in the secondary. Their personnel on the backend is among the most impressive collections of talent in the FBS.

So, with all due respect to opposing passing attacks, when you face the Arkansas State Red Wolves secondary, you’re better off checking off to a run.


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