Given the uncertainty of the health of some of the Arkansas State running backs, finding some sort of balance offensively seems to be the task at hand for the Red Wolves as they prepare to travel to Monroe this weekend. Coach Hugh Freeze said he thinks they have a good plan, though, and that he likes where the team is at mentally.
Frankie Jackson is still "questionable," said Freeze, on whether or not he will play much this weekend. Freeze said he wasn't sure how effective Jackson will be, but that he will definitely try.
"He got some reps today, some quality reps, but any time he has to exert it, like taking on a linebacker or something, it's tender," Freeze said. "I have no doubt that he'll try, unless something happens between now and the time we leave Friday. I just don't know how effective he can be yet."
Freeze was unsure of how close to 100 percent Jackson is, but said, "there's a really high percentage that you're gonna see him out there and see what he can do. I just don't know how he's gonna perform."
He clarified that Jackson's sprain is not a high ankle sprain, but is somewhere in the back near his achilles.
Sirgregory Thornton did not practice today. Freeze was not sure exactly what was wrong with him yet, but thought it may have something to do with his hip flexor.
With Jackson and Thornton both questionable this weekend, there's a good chance we'll see Rod Smith run the ball some.
"I'd say (Smith) will be the third guy if those two can't," Freeze said. "You'll see people like R.J. Fleming that can carry the ball also. We've just got to find a way to somewhat stay a little balanced."
Wide receiver Allen Muse is not quite up to par yet, but Freeze said he looks like he's doing a lot better.
"He seemed to have a better day today. I don't think he's 100 percent, but he caught the ball today and ran around a little better," Freeze said.
There's been talk of shifting the offensive line a bit and seeing Tom Castilaw be moved from center to tackle, but Freeze said for the time being they are sticking with what they've been doing.
"We tried yesterday, and we're gonna go again with the rotation we've been having," Freeze said. "Tom has been so solid at center, we just are probably gonna go another game and see if we can't function a little better."
A better functioning O-line is definitely a must this weekend, as ULM will without a doubt stack the box and really try to come at the Arkansas State offense. Freeze agreed that it is extremely important for the O-line to have a great game on Saturday in order for the Red Wolves to be successful.
"We've got to protect the passer and try to create some run lanes, so I think it's huge and important that they play well every game up front," he said.
Setting Aplin loose to run the ball some is not completely out of the question, but without Phillip Butterfield this year, it's been harder to turn Aplin loose and run the ball without a definite No. 2 guy to step in. Freeze said this doesn't mean he won't run at all, but it will depend on what they're in.
"They're gonna have an extra guy that you can't block," Freeze said. "If we can find a way to block him, I might turn Ryan loose some. But they've got a good plan to stop the run."
Coming off an emotional come back win on the road last week, Freeze he was pleased with the energy and emotion of the team as they head into another away weekend.
"I think everybody's real spirited, I know that the defense was today, I was down there with them during scout team and they were real spirited," Freeze said. "I think last week gave us some confidence that we can go on the road and find a way to win the game even when we don't play our best."
This weekend will certainly be a tough test for the Red Wolves, as Monroe returns 17 starters, but Freeze said he was confident in their plan offensively and pleased with the mental and emotional state of his team.
"I know Monroe is gonna be a tough test there. They think it's their year to win the Sun Belt, so we've got a tall task but I do like the mental state of where we're at," Freeze said.