The Red Wolves have played 32 games since Ryan Aplin last put on an AState helmet.
The Red Wolves went 26-16 with Aplin as the starter and an impressive 20-6 his final two years. His sophomore year AState went 4-8 but was ranked 40th in the nation in total offense and 42nd in scoring averaging 30 points per game, an uncharacteristically bad Steve Roberts defense kept the Aplin legend from blooming in his first year as a full time starter (105th in total defense, 91st in scoring giving up 30.75 per game).
In the land of G5 teams more often than not a school emerges to have success and settles back into averageness or worse once they lose the special “once every so often” playmaker graduates.
Memphis went 17-8 in DeAngelo Williams final two seasons. Memphis wouldn’t post another season of 8 or more wins for a decade.
FIU won 23 games with T.Y. Hilton. Eight games in the three completed seasons since (3-4 currently for a total of 11 wins since he left) and had won 11 the four years before Hilton.
Ball State was 10-3 when after losing to AState in the GoDaddy. Currently they are 7-12 since the game. Kent State went 11-3 the year we faced them in the GoDaddy. Since then they have gone 9-21.
North Texas won a final Sun Belt title after Kennedy graduated, a year where Jamario Thomas ran wild but he gained more yards that freshman season than he did the next three years combined.
For every Boise State or East Carolina finding long-term success there are several Kent States and Hawaii’s rising and falling with the signing and graduation of a game changing star.
AState’s post-Aplin record of 18-14 is the most wins in any three year period at AState since 1987-89 (18 wins) that doesn’t include 2011 and 2012, and there are still at least six games left to play.
For all the magic attributed to the leadership of Freeze and Malzahn it is hard to imagine either replicating a 9 or 10 win season last year or this year at AState with rosters we had while doing it with Kennedy seems a bit more plausible.
Aplin was a 2 star recruit out of high school, the same as Kennedy, Knighten, Birse and Tabary. The jury is a long way from rendering a verdict on Tabary and the story could always take a different turn on Birse but as of today, none have matched the impact of Aplin who finished with 10,758 yards passing and had 67 passing TD’s vs 37 interceptions (and added another 31 rushing and one receiving TD). Aplin is a perfect example of the voodoo that is recruiting. Finding that individual who grows as player and leader goes past the measurables that dominate recruiting evaluation.
For all the frustrations that followed since Aplin’s graduation it is worthwhile to remember AState has broken the mold of most G5 schools in holding on to a higher level of success than before the arrival of its program changer.