Revelations from the Red Wolves Recruiting Roundup in Little Rock
Arkansas State Red Wolves head coach Blake Anderson rolled into Little Rock on Thursday to talk recruiting, regrets, renovations and… Mexico?
A potpourri of cameras, microphones and journalists awaited Blake Anderson, who was fresh from pumping hands, clapping backs and trading quips with the guests assembled at the Arkansas State System Office in Little Rock. He approached the reporters exuding his trademark qualities: amiable good cheer, limitless energy, and a level of physical fitness most of us in the reporter’s pool will never approach. His reddish-blond hair is cropped short and neat. The crows-feet around his eyes imply a good-nature, not age. His Red Wolves’ branded shirt is tightly tucked into a pair of dark blue jeans.
As cameras are adjusted to account for the early-afternoon glare bouncing off the state capital dome, Anderson chats a bit about recruiting. He doesn’t care about stars or rankings (what coach does), but you can tell he’s both proud of his staff’s recruiting efforts, and maybe a little vexed that the Red Wolves aren’t unanimous Sun Belt recruiting champions among all ranking services. The contradiction is indicative of both his fiercely competitive nature, and his struggle to shrug off the things that aren’t supposed to matter.
Finally, cameras are properly prepped and questions are peppered to Anderson like cannon fire. We agree that this is Anderson’s best recruiting class yet. He reminds us of the transfers and blue shirts that are game-ready for 2018. He thinks 10 guys are ready to contribute immediately. I asked him where the team’s strengths and weaknesses now lie, and he’s a bit concerned about the safeties. He reminds us that the roster is still short of the 85 limit. He admits that team discipline could be improved, though he believes player leadership will rise this spring.
Finally, an associate AD announces its time for Coach Anderson to address the crowd, who are far more hungry for recruit details than sandwiches and chips. Anderson thanks us and jobs into position. Here’s what we learned.
Justice Hansen will be armed with an obnoxious number of talented receivers
Dijon Pachal, Christian Booker and Chris Murray have graduated, but who remains is formidable; their replacements, intriguing.
Dahu Green (6-5, 193 Junior)
A three-star receiver, Green is a transfer from Oklahoma who sat out the 2017 season while enrolled at Arkansas State. According to Anderson, Green was unstoppable on the practice squad, and why not? The dude is 6-5, joining Justin McGinnis (6-7) and Kendrick Edwards (6-5) to form the offense’s Triple Towers™. (I just made that up).
Bubba Ogbebor (6-0, 189 Sophomore)
A 3-star recruit who drifted too far north, Ogbebor arrives to Jonesboro via Boise State. A high school letterman in track, Anderson likes his speed.
Kirk Merritt (5-11, 205 Junior)
A four-star recruit out of high school, Anderson declared Merritt “the best athlete on the team,” Merritt may be just as dangerous as a kick returner as he is a wide receiver, and the video Anderson provided underscored the fact. Merritt arrives to Jonesboro from East Mississippi Community College after bouncing around Texas A&M and Oregon.
Anderson expects to announce new staff next week
Immediately after Signing Day, wide receivers coach Luke Paschal accepted a special teams coach position at North Carolina. Anderson said that a replacement was in the works, and that the fabled “10th coach” would be announced next week.
SMU offered Anderson “biiiiiiiiiiiig money”
When Chad Morris jumped from Dallas to Fayetteville, the Mustangs approached Anderson with a job offer. “I was offered big money to go to Dallas,” said Anderson. “Biiiiiiiiiiiig money.” This was rumored for some time, but it was the first I heard it from the man himself. Anderson said he liked what he was building in Jonesboro, and declined.
“7-5 isn’t good enough”
Coach Anderson was clearly unhappy with last year’s record. “Talent wasn’t the issue. We just didn’t have the discipline,” said Anderson, perhaps referencing the lapses of concentration and the untimely penalties that plagued the team in 2017.
They’re “water features” not “waterfalls.”
The North End Zone Project is humming along so well, it’s producing more dirt than expect. If you need dirt, you can get a good deal in Jonesboro. Furthermore, we were all chastised for using the word “waterfall” when describing the renovation. It’s a “water feature,” damnit! Study the rendering and judge for yourself.
Brandon Byner will get another year; maybe Armond Weh-Weh
Injured defensive back Brandon Byner received a medical exemption from the NCAA, and oft-injured RB Armond Weh-Weh is awaiting word. Red Wolves fans have been waiting for two season for Weh-Weh to batterer opposing defensive lines. Anderson said the 200lb running back is healthy and ready, but wasn’t sure if the NCAA would grant another season.
Starting nose guard Hunter Moreton was shot during Christmas
Moreton, a true freshman who played his way right into the starting lineup last season, was injured in a hunting accident over the Holidays. “He took some buckshot to the side,” said Anderson, who was relieved to learn that the stout, 300 pound defensive lineman will be fine for Spring. There was no discussion on the irony of a man named “Hunter” hurt in a hunting accident.
Arkansas State’s charmingly unique satellite campus in Mexico (Arkansas State University Campus Querétaro) may yield another unique benefit: a south-of-the-border football game. The city of Querétaro features a 50,000-seat soccer stadium that could accommodate a contest, and all that needs to be settled are the logistics. A high-level source tells me that former Sun Belt foe New Mexico State is interested in a Mexican Stand-Off, which would be several shades of cool.
A former notary public, Jeremy Harper is a professional writer and Chief Instigator for Storm the Castle Creative. He spends much of his free time staring blankly into space.