FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas defensive coordinator Robb Smith is preparing the Razorbacks to face an evolving Alabama offense Saturday.
The Crimson Tide are moving toward the spread more than ever under the guidance of third-year offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin. Alabama will still feature the power running game out of the I-formation, but will also regularly deploy three- and four-receiver sets.
Freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts gives the Tide a dual-threat option, and wide receiver Calvin Ridley and tight end O.J. Howard are Hurts’ most capable targets.
Smith recently discussed the challenges Alabama presents with the media. Here’s some of what he had to say:
Q: What stands out about the Alabama offense?
A: “I think they are very balanced in what they attempt to do in terms of run and pass. Especially on first and second down they do a nice job of calling their game. They certainly are going to be in an element in their running game with their quarterback and their running backs. They are very good on the perimeter, especially with their skill. We have to be aware of where (Ridley) is at all times. I think their tight ends, especially (Howard), is a very athletic guy.”
Q: What do you think of Howard?
A: “I think he is really, really athletic. He can create a personnel mismatch on linebackers at times. You really have to be careful how you try to defend him in terms of safeties and things of that nature, especially in the passing game. He has a good knowledge of what they are trying to do in the run game and gets his body in the right spot.”
Q: Is Alabama still a pro-style offense or more spread?
A: “I think they have an identity that’s unique to them. I think we are going to see some three-wide receiver (sets) from them. They are close to 60 percent three wide receivers in the game on first and second down and 40 percent two tight ends in what we call 12 personnel. I think they have an identity in each one of those groupings, but I think what they do to keep you off guard is they misplace personnel. They’ll take tight ends and line them up at wide receiver. They’ll take wide receivers and put them in the backfield. So they try and keep you off guard and not give you the same looks all the time out of those personnel groupings. But we have to do a great job of matching formations and matching people.”
Q: How is the Alabama offense evolving?
A: “I think they are certainly different this year. They have a different style of quarterback. I think he is a very, very good athlete. I think he can run it. I think he can throw it. They are doing more things in the run game both by design and zone read with him that they certainly weren’t doing a couple of years ago. I think that’s the street they are heading down but at the same time they still line up and run gap schemes and inside zones and be productive with their offensive line in pro-style runs, also.”
Q: What are your thoughts on Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts?
A: “I think he is a strong runner first and foremost. He is very fluid. He goes faster sometimes than it actually looks like he is. He is a very fluid athlete. He has got elusiveness and he has got strength and I think he knows exactly what he wants to do with the football when he has it and we have got to prepared for it.”