For onlookers across college football curious at the scope and success first-year Coach Butch Jones and his staff at Arkansas State University have had in recruiting from the transfer portal this offseason, it's due in part that Jones has done this before.
"We had to do something similar to this at Tennessee our first two years to get that program started," Jones said. "It was pretty much at rock bottom, so we had to be creative. We had to find a way to have roster management and improve our roster, and we were able to do that. You're kind of a byproduct of your experiences, so being able to have that experience has been a great starting point for us [at Arkansas State]."
The transfer portal didn't exist when Jones took over the Volunteers in 2013, but he and the Red Wolves have leaned on it heavily since his December hiring in their push to reconfigure ASU's 2021 roster.
The Red Wolves added six college transfers before spring camp, and between recent verbal commitments from former SEC talents Scooby Carter and Kivon Bennett and a series of other signings that include three quarterbacks, more appear to be on the way. ASU's new head coach has teased that the ASU roster could include as many as 54 newcomers by fall camp in August. At this rate, that group will feature as many -- if not more -- college transfers as scholarship freshman from the Class of 2021.
"The question was, 'What did we need as a program at Arkansas State?' " Jones said. "... We've created competition at every single position. When you have competition, that's when everyone gets better."
Jones spoke in December about his team needing to be "bigger, faster and stronger," and his well-voiced goal of adding competitive balance to the program began shortly after his hiring.
TCU wide receiver Te'Vailance Hunt and Louisville defensive lineman Thurman Geathers arrived to the program in the winter to mark the two Power 5 transfers currently on ASU's roster. They were joined in spring camp by fellow transfers Joe Ozougwu (North Texas), Kyheem Waleed (Boise State), Alan Lamar (Yale) and Leon Jones (Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College).
According to 247Sports.com, a collection of former Power 5 reinforcements are expected to join the program this summer on scholarship or as blueshirts and preferred walk-ons.
Over Memorial Day weekend, ASU reportedly added Kentucky offensive lineman Nick Lewis, Iowa State running back Johnnie Lang and former SEC quarterbacks Allen Walters and A.J. Aycock -- a Jonesboro native. The pair of passers will be joined by Florida State transfer James Blackman, who committed to the Red Wolves in January and is expected to blueshirt, filling out a quarterbacks room with Layne Hatcher, Wyatt Begeal and Brady Martin.
They'll be joined by Bennett -- a linebacker who was dismissed from Tennessee in 2019 -- and fellow former Volunteers defensive lineman John Mincey, both of whom were recruited to Tennessee during Jones' tenure. And among the standout additions is Carter, the former Alabama cornerback who committed to ASU on June 2 from Mississippi Gulf Coast.
"We've supplemented each position group with an influx of not only talent, but the competitive component as well," Jones said.
Nearly six months to the day since Jones' hiring, he and his staff have compiled a smattering of Power 5 talent to join a Red Wolves team returning 15 starters after a 4-7 finish in 2020. The new arrivals -- many of which do not have guaranteed roster spots -- will bring certain competition in fall camp, and as Jones alluded, ASU may not be finished yet.
"People have gotten to know us by now, recruiting is ongoing," Jones said. "We'll continue to recruit if there's somebody that can make us a better football program."