FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas’ offensive line has had some ugly moments in pass protection so far this season.
What’s most concerning is much of the pressure on QB Austin Allen has been from offensive linemen and running backs blowing assignments or being unable to stay in front of a rusher.
Here are some examples from the first three games:
The struggles are even more troubling for No. 17 Arkansas considering what looms Saturday — a date with Myles Garrett and No. 10 Texas A&M’s imposing defensive line.
Garrett, a 6-foot-5, 262-pound junior, widely is considered a lock as a top-5 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Opposite him on A&M’s defensive front will be senior Daeshon Hall (6-6, 270), another projected 2017 draft pick. Garrett led the SEC with 13 sacks last season, and Hall was eighth with 7.
“(Garrett) is phenomenal,” Arkansas offensive coordinator Dan Enos said. “I thought he was phenomenal last year. I think (Hall) is very, very close to be as good as (Garrett) is.
“A lot of times when you see those so-called pass rushers, they don’t like to mix it up. But you can’t say that about these two guys. The way you design your offense or call the game, the fact (is) that either one of those ends change the game at a moment’s notice. You’ve got to have high awareness of it and have a plan for them.”
Expect that plan, as usual for the Hogs, to start with establishing the running game. There’s no better way to slow down a pass rush than not getting yourself in obvious passing downs. Also expect plenty of rollout passes, another staple of Arkansas’ offense, to help get Allen away from Garrett and Hall.
Well aware of what his offensive line will face Saturday, Arkansas coach Bret Bielema took a motivational approach early in the week.
“I think (tight end Jeremy) Sprinkle, I think (left tackle) Dan Skipper, some guys that are on the edges of our offense, have to play well,” Bielema said. “I challenged them a little bit (Sunday) night. A lot of the (Texas A&M defensive linemen) are very well thought of. Not just at Texas A&M, but what they’re projected to do. I know I have a couple guys that have those same dreams. When you’re going against people of this caliber, this is when you truly define who you are. It’s not just another day at the office. You’ve got to ratchet it up a little bit.”
Arkansas needs its offensive line to be much better than it’s been through three games this season. Otherwise expect Allen to face the most pressure he’s seen all season, and that’s saying something.