Butch Jones had a great amount of experience as the head coach of Central Michigan, Cincinnati, and Tennessee before he began leading Arkansas State in 2021. But since then, the Red Wolves have gone 6-21, including 1-2 this year.
That has led many to wonder how much longer Arkansas State will want Jones to stay there. He was the fourth-highest paid Sun Belt coach with $825,000 in total pay last year, according to USA Today, so it shouldn’t be an undesirable job if it were to open up.
Here’s some names Arkansas State might consider if the Red Wolves begin seeking a new head coach.
SMU Offensive Coordinator Casey Woods
SMU’s offense has flourished with Casey Woods as the team’s offensive coordinator.
The Mustangs were 12th in the FBS in scored points per game (37.2) and 14th in yards per game (472.8). There’s little reason to believe they’ll slow down this year.
Before this, Woods was a tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator at Missouri. He’s also been an assistant at UAB and Auburn.
Arkansas State makes sense for Woods, as he was a wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator there in 2012 when the Red Wolves went 10-3, earned a Sun Belt title, and won the GoDaddy.com Bowl.
Woods has a long history of working directly with recruiting and has experience at Arkansas State. He should be a leading candidate for Arkansas State if the program begins looking for a new head coach.
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Boise State Defensive Coordinator Spencer Danielson
Boise State’s defense has been one of the best units in the country since Spencer Danielson took over.
Last year, the Broncos allowed the sixth-fewest yards in the FBS a season ago (281.5 per game) and the 11th-fewest points (18.5). The season before, they allowed the 12th-fewest points (19 per game).
Danielson was a positional coach at Boise State previously. From 2013-16, he coached at his alma mater, Azusa Pacific. He was a linebackers coach and a recruiting coordinator there.
If Arkansas State decides to pursue a defensive-minded head coach, Danielson would be one to think about.
Georgia Southern Offensive Coordinator Bryan Ellis
Bryan Ellis has worked with some exceptional offenses in the past few years.
In 2022, which was Ellis’ first as Georgia Southern’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, the Eagles were in the top 20 in the FBS with 466.7 yards per game and scored 32.7 points per game.
Before that, Ellis was Western Kentucky’s co-offensive coordinator and inside receivers coach. In 2021, the Hilltoppers were second in the country with 44.2 points per game and 535.3 yards per game while leading the FBS with 433.7 passing yards per game.
He was WKU’s OC and quarterbacks coach from 2019-20 and was an assistant there from 2014-16. From 2017-18, he worked with quarterbacks at USC.
Ellis obviously knows the Sun Belt well and how to develop high-flying offenses, so he would be a good candidate for Arkansas State.
Gardner-Webb Head Coach Tre Lamb
Gardner-Webb has made impressive strides under head coach Tre Lamb, who was previously Tennessee Tech’s offensive coordinator. The Runnin’ Bulldogs went 2-2 in the abbreviated 2021 spring season then were 4-7 in the 2021 fall season.
Last year, they won their first Big South championship since 2003 by going undefeated in conference play. They also nearly beat another Sun Belt program, Coastal Carolina, in a 31-27 loss and fell at Liberty by a narrow score of 21-20.
Gardner-Webb was in the top 20 in the FCS with 441.5 yards per game while scoring 32.2 points per game last year, and that offense helped the Runnin’ Bulldogs reach the second round of the playoffs.
If the Red Wolves were to consider someone from the FCS ranks, Lamb’s name should certainly come up.
JMU Defensive Coordinator Bryant Haines
Bryant Haines has been instrumental in JMU’s transition to the Sun Belt. He was promoted to DC and linebackers coach after three years as a co-defensive coordinator.
In just their first season as an FBS program, JMU allowed the eighth-fewest yards per game in the country with 290.2 while allowing just 20.9 points per game. It was also top 10 in rushing defense, tackles for loss per game, first downs allowed, sacks per game, third-down defense, and fumble recoveries.
Under Haines, who’s been coaching the Dukes since the 2019 season, JMU earned a place in the top 10 nationally in either the FBS or FCS in total defense. Seven JMU defenders made an All-Sun Belt team last year as well.
Before JMU, Haines worked with linebackers under now-JMU head coach Curt Cignetti at Elon and was a linebackers coach at UC Davis before that in 2016.
Haines knows defense and the conference, so he could be a good fit for Arkansas State.