Sun Belt Preview Series: Arkansas State
Welcome to WNSP’s Sun Belt preview series to get you ready for football season! Each day, we will preview a new team in the Sun Belt conference and get you ready for football season. We’ll take a look at what Vegas has their win total set at, make a prediction, and talk about their season outlook. Today’s team: The Arkansas State Red Wolves
Players to watch:
Offense: QB James Blackman, WR Jeff Foreman
Defense: LB Kivon Bennett, LB John Mincey
For a team that used to be one of the powers of the Sun Belt and at least be good enough to qualify for a bowl yearly, the past two seasons for the Arkansas State Red Wolves have been abysmal. With a familiar name taking over as head coach in 2021 in former Tennessee head coach and Alabama analyst Butch Jones, his first year in the Sun Belt did not go well. The Red Wolves went 2-10, with their only wins coming against Central Arkansas and Louisiana-Monroe.
The defense for Arkansas State was absolutely brutal in 2021, with the worst run defense in the nation and second worst overall. It is almost impossible for it to be this bad again, and with some returning talent and veteran presence it should improve.
Kivon Bennett and John Mincey, both former Tennessee Vols, need to improve against the run, but will look to build on solid seasons last year. At quarterback, a name college football fans may remember is former Florida State starter James Blackman, who looked good before getting injured last season. He is back and should provide some life to an offense that is in great need of it.
The transfer portal was not kind to the Red Wolves, as they lost top receiver Corey Rucker to South Carolina among a few other losses, but they still have a veteran receiver group led by Jeff Foreman and Te’Vailiance Hunt, and if the line can improve, an offense that gained over 400 yards and scored over 25 points a game in 2021 should be even better in 2022.
The Red Wolves face South Alabama week 9 at home in late October and will also have to take on Ohio State week two in Columbus as well as Memphis on the road week three. While this will not be a great team by any means in 2022, the Red Wolves should at a minimum take a step forward in year two of the Butch Jones era and win a few more games. I’ll predict 5-8 for Arkansas State in 2022.