Coach Hugh Freeze has brought a world of new excitement to the Arkansas State Red Wolves football program, and people are taking notice. Fans have noticed the change, players noticed it as soon as he was named head coach, and the media has taken notice as well.
RedWolfReport.com contacted several members of the media both in and outside of the state of Arkansas to get their opinion's on this year's team. Those opinion's are below.
Coach Freeze has changed the mindset of his players, the coaches and the fans. It's a winning attitude and expectation, and it's made the difference in close games the Red Wolves used to lose. This is shaping up to be the most exciting season for ASU football since going to the Division I-AA national championship in 1986.
The schedule for the remainder of the season is very favorable for ASU and that bodes well for a conference championship. They need to take care of business at Florida Atlantic - which the Red Wolves haven't been successful in doing historically - and then look forward to the showdown against Louisiana-Lafayette at home.
What looked like a weak performance against Western Kentucky turned out to be a key victory against a much-improved Sun Belt contender. The outcomes against No. 12 Virginia Tech and Illinois continue to look all the more impressive despite Illinois cooling off a bit.
While the on-field results speak for themselves, the biggest adjustment in Jonesboro seems to be the mentality of folks around Arkansas State's football program. Coach Freeze seems to have injected a confidence and energy into his players and coaching staff that hasn't been seen in years, maybe decades.
Combine that with the staff that Freeze has put together and his vast football knowledge and it's easy to see how they've turned things around so quickly. Each week seems to be a new milestone or "first time since..." that they're achieving and it's exciting to watch, even from five hours away.
Coach Freeze will be the first to tell you the work isn't done for this season or beyond, but it's hard not to like the direction things are headed.
Beyond his high-flying offense, Hugh Freeze has made believers out of these Red Wolves. They believe they are going to win every time they step on the field. That confidence is 80 percent of being successful, and the Red Wolves have it now. We expect ASU to beat Louisiana (Lafayette) and win the Sun Belt.
Coach Freeze has done an outstanding job of molding the talent into a championship caliber team. The Red Wolves are playing well in every facet. When Coach Freeze took the job, many people erroneously assumed it would be all offense. But he's built a championship program with a solid defense and special teams.
I think Ryan Aplin has become most feared offensive player in the conference. The defense is coming on, and the schedule is favorable. I'll be surprised if they don't win out.
Growing up in Arkansas, Arkansas State was rarely mentioned in the media. Now Hugh Freeze has them on the winning track, and we are hearing about them every week. It seems like anytime I turn the radio or the TV on, there is something about Arkansas State on there now. Freeze is a winner and has gained the state's attention. It is really exciting to see Arkansas State have success and get some recognition.
Freeze's success did not really surprise us. We figured that they would be very good and content for a championship this year. Everyone from the coaches to the team had a new swagger about them, and looking at the league schedule, it was set up for Arkansas State to make a run. They had a lot of talent coming back and a favorable schedule, and the new swagger they have has really helped them a lot.
Coach Freeze was the right man at the right time for Arkansas State. If it wasn't obvious at the time of his hiring, it certainly is now. Freeze has more than demonstrated his ability to take ASU to a new level of excellence. I don't think there is another coach in the country that would be on the verge of an undefeated Sun Belt season in their first year at the helm of the Red Wolves. That speaks for its self.
While I was impressed with what Freeze did as offensive coordinator last season, I was surprised when he got the head-coaching job; generally, you don't generally 'reward' assistants whose boss gets fired. But Freeze has done good work again this season, and I would say the Red Wolves are the second-biggest positive surprise in the league, behind ULL. (FIU and Troy are big surprises, but in a bad way.) Aplin is a good quarterback and there is a nice group of receivers, and Freeze is taking advantage of those guys. And I think it bodes well for the future that Arkansas State is putting up solid offensive numbers despite not having a legitimate feature tailback and with a rebuilt line.
I think ULL wins the league, but I also think Arkansas State basically is a lock to go bowling - which is a tremendous accomplishment for Freeze in his first season. I also would imagine that Arkansas State will be able to get in on 'better' offensive recruits - both high school and JC ranks - because of this season's success and Freeze's style of offense.
And finally, my thoughts.
It is very exciting to see Arkansas State have success. I began following the Red Wolves (Indians at the time) when two local guys were playing (Shermar Bracey and Tyrell Johnson). Through my time of keeping up with the program while those guys were there, I began to have a legitimate interest in the program.
As my career in the Army ended, my career as a writer began. I noticed that Red Wolf fans were hungry for media coverage, and the program deserved that coverage. Being able to meet and interact with Coach Freeze as he took the job made things that much sweeter.
Freeze is a guy who could make anyone want to put on a helmet and run through a brick wall. You can see that in the way that his team performs week in and week out.
I knew back in the spring that Arkansas State was going to have a special season this year. Linebacker Demario Davis told me that things were "fun" again. It wasn't long after that, many other players began stating the same thing. When players are having fun, they will go the extra mile, and that is what this team is doing.
I agree with may of the media members which contributed to this article. I believe the schedule is favorable for the Red Wolves to win out, and it will be a complete farce if Hugh Freeze is not named the Sun Belt Conference coach of the year.
This is the season Red Wolf fans have been longing for since Steve Roberts led them to the New Orleans bowl, and Hugh Freeze has delivered in a big way.
Luke Matheson-Publisher RedWolfReport.com
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