FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas’ struggling offensive line will face an elite pass rusher for a third consecutive conference game Saturday.
The No. 22 Hogs (4-2, 0-2 SEC) are set to face No. 12 Mississippi (3-2, 1-1) inside Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium (7 p.m. ET, ESPN). The Rebels feature junior defensive end Marquis Haynes, who is widely considered one of the top pass rushers in the country.
“(Haynes) is a really good player,” said Arkansas offensive coordinator Dan Enos. “He’s one of those pass rushers in the SEC that you’ve got to know where he’s at every play.”
This after Arkansas already has faced Texas A&M standouts Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall, and Alabama star Tim Williams through two games in SEC play.
“He’s different,” Enos said. “He’s not as big as Myles Garrett and those guys. But (Haynes) has a really good first step. I think that’s what separates guys. Tim Williams from Alabama, first step. Myles Garrett, first step. (Daeshon Hall), first step. This guy has that same first-step explosiveness.”
Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen was sacked once and hit 15 times against the Aggies. Two weeks later in against the Crimson Tide, Allen was sacked 6 times and hit 21 times.
So it’s clear the Hogs struggle keeping Allen upright when facing exceptional pass rushers. That equates to potentially another day of taking hits for the junior quarterback Saturday.
Haynes, a preseason All-American selection by Phil Steele, has 3 sacks this season. One of those sacks produced a huge play for the Rebels in a near upset of No. 1 Alabama earlier this season. Haynes quickly came off the edge, blasted quarterback Jalen Hurts to cause a fumble and teammate John Youngblood scooped the ball and raced the other way for a touchdown.
Haynes “has the pass rush potential to be a first round pick, likely as a linebacker in a 3-4 scheme,” according to CBSSports.com. He’s currently projected to be a second- or third-round pick by WalterFootball.com if he opts to enter the 2017 NFL Draft.
The best solution for the Hogs to avoid Haynes from getting after Allen is to have success running the ball and stay out of obvious passing downs. They should have a good chance, as the Rebels rank 13th in the SEC in run defense, allowing 215 yards per game.
After the Hogs struggled to run the ball against Texas A&M (7th in SEC vs. run) and Alabama (1st in SEC vs. run), they’ve focused on producing an “extra half-second of strain” to create more lanes for the running backs.
“The (offensive line) is on the right guys for the most part,” coach Bret Bielema said. “They’re were some busts (against Alabama), obviously, but when you’re on the right guy … if you can just strain. That’s the thing we talk about all the time in practice. Strain, strain strain. Unfortunately until you see it several times it doesn’t become clear, but we’re getting there.”