Coming off two losses to start the season against Oklahoma and Memphis in which neither game was competitive, the Arkansas State football team is searching for leadership as it seeks its first win of the season on Saturday against FCS opponent Stony Brook.
The team has had spirited practices over the last several weeks, but those practices have not translated to in-game success to this point.
"We don't have enough leaders yet," Coach Butch Jones said. "You have to have players in your program that your younger players want to emulate. That they model their game after, they model how they live their lives off the field, they model how they work every single day."
The Red Wolves will need leaders to emerge this week as they look to avoid a potential upset, as well as establish some positive momentum as Sun Belt Conference play kicks off next weekend.
While the two losses Arkansas State has suffered this year have been lopsided affairs, Jones believes the team did improve from Week 1 to Week 2.
"I thought we made some significant improvements in some areas more than others," he said. "But still way too many blinking lights out there that we got to get corrected. Not enough consistency. Everything is about execution on a consistent basis. We don't have that right now. Not enough individuals playing winning football, but I see glimpses."
Injuries will be another factor against the Seawolves on Saturday night. Starting quarterback J.T. Shrout went down against Memphis with an apparent lower leg/ankle injury and did not return to the game.
Freshman Jaxon Dailey replaced Shrout following the injury and will most likely get the start if Shrout can't go. Jones says he will go with whichever quarterback has the best week of practice.
Aside from Shrout, the Red Wolves will also be without a pair of defensive lineman due to injury. Terion Sugick will be out for the remainder of the season with a knee injury and starting defensive end Ethan Hassler is expected to miss about a month after going down against the Tigers.
Arkansas State will have to rely on some young players to step up along the defensive front, but Stony Brook is a team it should have a physical advantage over regardless of who is in the game.
As an FBS program, Arkansas State can offer up to 85 scholarships, while Stony Brook is an FCS program that is only allowed 63 scholarships.
The Seawolves will be playing up a level after losing their first two games of the season against Delaware and Rhode Island. Stony Brook is used to playing tough competition, having played an FBS opponent 12 out of the last 14 years dating back to 2010.
"I know this with Stony Brook, they're going to make us earn every yard that we get," Jones said. "They have a number of transfers on the football team. The quarterback [Casey Case] is from Buffalo. They have another player from James Madison. They have some good players, so again, they're going to make us earn everything, nobody is going to give us anything."
The Seawolves are coached by Chuck Priore, who is in his 18th season as head coach for the university located on Long Island in New York. While playing against an FBS opponent is always difficult for the Seawolves, Priore is excited for his team to get a chance to come into Jonesboro and compete.
"It's challenging because they're supposed to be better," he said. "So when you compete at the high level, it's certainly a reward. At the end of the day, we have to stay away from turnovers. We got to possess the ball and compete as hard as we can."
AT ARKANSAS STATE
WHEN 6 p.m.
WHERE Centennial Bank Stadium, Jonesboro
RECORDS Arkansas State 0-2; Stony Brook 0-2
COACHES Arkansas State: Butch Jones (5-21 in third season at ASU); Stony Brook: Chuck Priore (97-93 in 18th season at Stony Brook)
RADIO KFIN-FM, 107.9, Jonesboro; KBZU-FM, 106.7, Little Rock
NOTEWORTHY Arkansas State is playing an FCS opponent for the 13th consecutive season. The team has won 18 of its last 19 games against FCS opponents … Stony Brook has played an FBS opponent in 12 of the last 14 season.