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Arkansas football tickets 2017: Buy tickets
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Arkansas football schedule
|Thu, Aug 31||vs. Florida A&M||W 49-7|
|Sat, Sep 9||vs. TCU||L 28-7|
|Sat, Sep 23||vs. Texas A&M||L 50-43 OT|
|Sat, Sep 30||vs. New Mexico State||12:00 PM ET|
|Sat, Oct 7||@ South Carolina||4:00 PM ET|
|Sat, Oct 14||@ Alabama||TBD|
|Sat, Oct 21||vs. Auburn||TBD|
|Sat, Oct 28||@ Mississippi||TBD|
|Sat, Nov 4||vs. Coastal Carolina||TBD|
|Sat, Nov 11||@ LSU||TBD|
|Sat, Nov 18||vs. Mississippi State||TBD|
|Fri, Nov 24||vs. Missouri||2:30 PM ET|
Latest Arkansas football news
The Arkansas offensive line is making things difficult on quarterback Austin Allen for a second straight season.
Through three games, the Razorbacks have allowed 11 sacks. That’s an average of 3.67 per game, which ranks No. 13 in the SEC and No. 126 nationally out of 130 teams. This comes after allowing 2.69 per game in 13 games last season, ranking No. 13 in the conference and No. 103 nationally.
How can this happen to a Bret Bielema-coached team? At the very least a reliable offensive line is supposed to be one of the certainties of having Bielema as the head man. The Hogs led the SEC in sacks allowed per game during each of his first three seasons.
In Bielema’s assessment, the current issues come down to failed development.
“We have a lot of that O-line group that’s in the junior, senior class that was recruited three or four years ago, that for us to take a step forward those guys needed to take a step forward, and it just hasn’t happened,” Bielema said.
Bielema seems to be saying the lack of growth from Brian Wallace and Jalen Merrick has resulted in the shortcomings of the unit. They are two of four players on the roster who were once 4-star offensive line recruits. Standout center Frank Ragnow and underwhelming reserve Jake Raulerson, who transferred from Texas ahead of the 2016 season, are the others. (Current starting left guard Hjalte Froholdt was a 4-star defensive line recruit).
Three of the four highest-rated offensive line recruits on the roster are doing little more than playing special teams this season. That’s a problem.
Raulerson wasn’t recruited by Arkansas, so he can be excused from the development discussion. Still, Razorbacks coaches deemed him worthy of a scholarship after he departed from Texas, and he’s currently only playing on special teams.
But there’s no good excuse for Wallace and Merrick not to be fixtures in the starting lineup this season. Truthfully, they are exactly what’s missing from Arkansas having a better offensive line. Merrick at right guard and Wallace at right tackle, assuming both were playing to their perceived potential, would give the Hogs a pretty salty unit up front.
Instead, the Razorbacks are shuffling between freshman walk-on Ty Clary, former walk-on Johnny Gibson and senior junior college transfer Paul Ramirez as they struggle to piece together the right side of the line.
It’s impossible to say who is definitely to blame for the lack of development from Wallace and Merrick. Is it the coaches, or the players? Bielema, seemingly unintentionally, alluded to it being a coaching issues.
“Brian has been very, very positive,” Bielema said of Wallace. “He’s continued to work very hard. His attitude has been great. He’s just got to get better.”
If Wallace is doing everything right and hasn’t been molded into a reliable starter with his talent, that sounds like a coaching problem. What’s puzzling is that he started 10 games last season at right tackle and was by no means a glaring weakness. This season, his junior campaign, he’s suddenly not good enough.
“I don’t know if [Wallace] took a step back,” Bielema said. “He’s obviously not starting, so that’s a step obviously not forward. I think we’ve got better players. Believe me, if [Merrick and Wallace] were better than the options we had out there, they’d be out there.”
It has come to be expected that offensive linemen will successfully develop under Bielema. He emphasizes development and getting the most out of each player on the offensive front, and his teams have done a great job of that in the past.
But none of that matters now. For whatever reason, it didn’t happen last season, and it isn’t happening this season.
“We don’t want our quarterback in the SEC getting knocked on the ground eight or nine times per game,” Bielema said, referencing the number of hits Allen took against Texas A&M. “He won’t make it through it.”
It’s ultimately on Bielema to figure out how that’s to be avoided going forward.