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Scrimmage flags ruffle ASU coach

by Mitchell Gladstone | August 15, 2021 at 2:00 a.m.

Butch Jones is waking up early these days. He's got that edginess, wondering what situations his team has yet to cover through the opening week of fall camp.

This morning, he's likely got penalties on his mind.

Arkansas State University racked up 16 flags in its Saturday scrimmage, a practice session that ran for about an hour and 45 minutes and featured 112 snaps as well as live special teams. The scrimmage was closed to the media and public.

Jones told reporters afterward that he felt the scrimmage was his team's "most productive day" of camp, but he lamented the fact that his team hasn't had officials on hand through the first week of practice.

He even went so far as to put out a call for high school and college officials in northeast Arkansas who'd be willing to work the Red Wolves' practices.

"We will not tolerate that in our football program," Jones said of the flags. "It's about winning football, it's about playing disciplined football. We took a total of nine points off the board with penalties. You want to make mistakes in practice because that's how you learn -- and you never waste an opportunity to learn or you never waste a failure."

The scrimmage was the first chance for Jones and Arkansas State's defensive staff to evaluate that side of the ball with full-on tackling.

Throughout the spring and summer, Jones and defensive coordinator Rob Harley have preached the notion of "one defense," and with the stewardship of veterans such as senior Caleb Bonner, there's a feeling of growth among a unit that was clearly the Red Wolves' weakness a year ago.

"I used to be the lead-by-example [guy], but this year I feel like I'm doing a great job of just being the vocal leader," Bonner said. "We're communicating to each other, celebrating together whenever [someone on defense] makes a play. We're just all moving in one motion."

If Saturday was important for the elder statesmen on defense -- Jones also pointed to the growing presence of Tennessee transfer Kivon Bennett -- then it was an equally critical day for a pair of youngsters on the opposite half of the field.

Tight end Emmanuel Stevenson and preferred walk-on wide receiver Reagan Ealy, both of whom were recruited to Arkansas State by Jones and his staff, have impressed throughout the opening week. Jones said both of the true freshmen will see the field this season -- Stevenson could share time with incumbent Reed Tyler, and Ealy is in the mix to be the starting slot along with Boise State transfer Khyheem Waleed.

Consistency remains the buzzword for Jones this camp. After an off-day today, the Red Wolves will practice Monday through Wednesday and again Friday before a second scrimmage Saturday, which will be played under the lights.

"This week will kind of really tell where you're at," Jones said. "Now you're a week-long into the grind. It challenges your mental conditioning. You're tired, you're edgy, you're irritable. You've been doing the same routine for a week. This is where your team can take monumental steps in terms of toughness."

Print Headline: Scrimmage flags ruffle ASU coach

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