Not right now, anyway.
It only feels like everyone in the SEC has gone to the spread offense. They haven’t. Games in this conference are still won with the boys up front. Arkansas has struggled, however, against teams that prefer a faster playing style, regardless of what they do personnel-wise. As far as Florida, the team’s opponent this weekend, goes, the Gators will slow things down.
Common thinking suggests that’s a good thing for a Razorbacks team that has had its issues with the spread-it-and-go offenses that prevail throughout college football. I don’t wholly subscribe to that theory, though.
SEC football still is a game won along the offensive and defensive lines. That, more than spread offenses, has had the biggest effect on the Razorbacks’ season so far. Alabama pushed around Arkansas up front on both sides. So did Auburn. Texas A&M less so and Ole Miss hardly at all. Four different teams with four different offenses; the only one of those teams that runs a spread — the Rebels — Arkansas beat.
It isn’t the style of the offense that matters to Arkansas, no matter how it’s been in recent seasons. What matters are the gentlemen up front. And in both lines, offensive and defensive, Arkansas needs some help. In fact, both units are likely to see changes ahead of and during Saturday.
One thing coach Bret Bielema hinted was moving freshman McTelvin Agim to end and pairing him with Jeremiah Ledbetter on the interior. Agim has largely been Ledbetter’s backup at 3-technique at defensive tackle. His athleticism is something only bested, perhaps, by Ledbetter and Deatrich Wise Jr. up front. Such a look is something I suggested last week with Game On’s Wess Moore that could provide more of an Arkansas pass rush, as the Razorbacks have just 3 sacks in four SEC games.
“I think one of the biggest things we’re looking for is who gives us the most-productive combination in there,” defensive line coach Rory Segrest said. “It’s been an opportunity this bye week to be able to move some guys around, give some looks there. It’s still a work in progress and we’re taking a look at it. But we have some options there.”
Offensively, Brian Wallace may or may not go at right tackle. Colton Jackson, who started the first two games of the season, would likely get the lion’s share of the snaps if Wallace can’t. Hjalte Froholdt at left guard is an option to come out of the lineup, too, as offensive coordinator Dan Enos plainly said Monday that the first-year offensive lineman probably should play a reserve role.
Problem is, who can go in? Bielema admitted that his team doesn’t have many options behind the five who are currently starting. Jackson is one, and he’s tried at guard, but the staff seems to feel most comfortable with him at tackle. Zach Rogers is more of a center than a guard. No one else gets any mention anymore. Not Jalen Merrick, not Johnny Gibson, not Paul Ramirez. Nobody. One might have to, though, if Florida annihilates the Arkansas front five the way most others have. The Razorbacks have allowed 21 sacks (13th in SEC) and 52 tackles-for-losses (12th) this year.
Still, the problems are well-documented. Changing personnel seems to be last-ditch. At this point, not a lot can be done about the issues otherwise. If Arkansas wins Saturday, though, bowl eligibility is locked up and a semblance of momentum will have returned. After that, who knows?
Arkansas and Florida have played only 10 times in history. The Razorbacks have won just once — the first meeting in 1981. A handful of other times, though, Arkansas has victory snatched away in the final moments.
Friend of the Breakfast John Nabors posed this question Tuesday to me on his show:
<Your Business Here> Poll Question: Hog fans, which Florida loss sucked the most for you?
— John Nabors (@TheForumJohn) November 1, 2016
None of them “hurt” me, but one stands out in particular: 2003. Tony Bua pressured Chris Leak into an interception, which Sam Olajubutu took back a good ways in the final seconds with Arkansas down a touchdown. Had it counted, the Razorbacks would have had a shot to win, or at least tie, the game, but Bua was flagged for a personal foul, wiping out the pick and allowing the Gators to run out the clock.
I probably remember it best because it came during my most hardcore college football fan years. Most Arkansas fans prefer this Bua hit to stick in their memories instead:
By the way, that 2003 game isn’t even coming close to receiving the most votes. The 2006 and 2009 games own, at time of publication, 40 and 54 percent of the tally, respectively.
Can’t blame Jeff Long for this one
OK, you kind of can. But he isn’t taking the brunt of it anymore.
Long, Arkansas’ athletic director, came under heat the last few years as the inaugural chairman of the College Football Playoff committee. And while he’s still on the committee, he isn’t responsible for explaining the group’s decisions to the media anymore.
No, that’s Kirby Hocutt, the athletic director at Texas Tech. Hocutt had some curious college football fans Tuesday night as the first rankings of the season were released with Texas A&M included as the fourth team in the four-team playoff.
Reaction was, uh, not kind.
Texas A&M four?? Wow.
— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) November 1, 2016
Well, they went there: No. 4 Texas A&M
— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) November 1, 2016
A&M AT 4 pic.twitter.com/3yzgGgT9S4
— The Arkansas Logo (@Arkansas_Logo) November 1, 2016
Most seemed to think undefeated Washington should have been the No. 4 team. Not the Aggies. Hocutt said the reasoning was A&M’s tougher schedule. Fair enough. Arkansas is one of those teams providing the Aggies some credit as Texas A&M owns four wins over teams with winning records versus Washington’s two.
By the way, Arkansas has played three teams ranked in the top 10: Alabama (1), A&M (4) and Auburn (9). Florida is 11th and LSU, next on the schedule after the Gators, is 13th.
- Knile Davis quickly found a home. Then lost it. Two days after being cut by Green Bay, the former Arkansas running back signed on with the New York Jets. Hours later, New York saw C.J. Spiller was available, so the Jets made plans to cut Davis. Bummer day. He has 3 carries for 6 yards this year between the Packers and Kansas City, his previous team.
- Linebacker Brooks Ellis is up for the Academic Heisman, it was announced Tuesday. The trophy is officially called the William V. Campbell Trophy.
- Defensive end Deatrich Wise Jr., whom I wrote about Tuesday, didn’t do much at practice Tuesday, defensive line coach Rory Segrest said. His status for Saturday is TBD.
- Tom Murphy at WholeHogSports takes a look at the meaning behind the Hog-styled stickers the Razorbacks have on the back of their helmets.
• A rough season for the Arkansas volleyball team has turned to a glimmer of goodness in the last week. Danielle Harbin, senior co-captain for the Razorbacks team that has won two straight SEC games, was named SEC Offensive Player of the Week for her 50 kills against Georgia and Mississippi State. Arkansas next plays at Alabama on Sunday.
• Charles Kim, a sophomore golfer, will take part in the Sun Bowl Western Refining College All-America Golf Classic later this month at the El Paso Country Club. Kim will join 20 other college golfers, including 12 who were among the top 100 amateurs in the country.
• Arkansas’ women’s cross country moved up to No. 7 in the country after winning the SEC title over the weekend. The team hosts the South Regional, its third home meet of the season, on Nov. 11 at 11 a.m. at Agri Park. The men’s team will also participate; it holds at No. 6 in the rankings.
• Jimmy Dykes’ women’s basketball team plays its first, and only, exhibition Thursday night at Bud Walton Arena. Arkansas hosts Oklahoma Baptist at 7 p.m. before the season starts Nov. 11 against Sam Houston State. The Razorbacks were picked to finish 11th in the SEC.
Yee-Haw! Today in Arkansas
Teenage pranks are one thing. We’ve all done them. T-Ping a house (not a tree in Auburn), throwing eggs, mailboxing — these are things kids do and mostly, they’re harmless. But some jerk in Jonesboro took too big a risk.
Sugar in the gas tank is funny in theory. Not in practice. Unless, you know, it’s to your worst enemy. Putting sugar in the tank of a day care center van, though? That’s just cruel. No one was hurt, but, geez. This story came from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.