Technically speaking, Florida’s defense provides the stiffest test of the year for an Arkansas offense that has alternated between rock-and-roll and minimalist.
The Gators have the No. 2-scoring defense and passing defense in the country. They’re third in the SEC in stopping the run. Some of that is due to the ease of the team’s schedule so far. North Texas, Massachusetts, Vanderbilt and Missouri don’t exactly scare most. Too, though, Florida can only play the games on its schedule. It’s not like the Gators allowed subpar opponents to over-execute.
Enter Austin Allen. Arkansas’ first-year starting quarterback is the best one Florida will have seen so far this year and it really isn’t even all that close. Allen’s status as a potential first-team All-SEC selection may have taken a hit after his performance against Auburn, but he’s still, by objective and subjective measures, a top-three passer in the conference. He has at his disposal one of the best receiving corps in the SEC, as well. Of course, he also has, as far as pass protection goes, the second-worst offensive line in the SEC.
That’s the intimidating part. Allen, when given time, can pick apart even the best defenses. He’s even been good when pressured and knocked around, which seems like every other dropback this year. But at some point, a hit is going to come the wrong way, like it did against Auburn, when it was feared Allen was hurt for the long term.
Despite Florida’s dearth of quality opponents, the personnel on the roster still is pretty impressive. Cornerback Jalen Tabor and linebacker Jarrad Davis are both considered first-round picks in next year’s NFL Draft, per CBS Sports. The Gators are the only team besides Alabama to have two players expected to go in the first round.
Strength versus strength. If anyone in the SEC, quarterback-wise, can do more against the Gators than Florida’s previous opponents have been able to, it’s Allen.
Assuming he stays upright.
This is my opinion and that’s all it is, but …
I don’t think Randy Shannon is highly thought of in the Fred W. Smith Football Center.
Florida’s linebackers coach and co-defensive coordinator was the linebackers coach at Arkansas during Bret Bielema’s first two seasons in Fayetteville. He left after that second year to join Jim McElwain’s staff at Florida. People who’ve been covering this team a lot longer than I have know what the air was like in the room when Shannon was around. I do not.
But it seems every time someone — a fan or media member — brings up Shannon’s impact with Florida’s current linebackers and the struggles Arkansas’ defense is having presently, it’s met with backlash. This is especially true of those in our camp — media — who are in tight with the current Razorbacks staff and also with those who wish they were in tight.
On consecutive days on Sports Talk with Bo Mattingly, a caller suggested Shannon would be a good fit with the Razorbacks if he were still here. One suggested, even, Shannon should have been kept instead of Robb Smith, Arkansas’ current defensive coordinator. I disagree with that second sentiment but not nearly as violently as the host and his in-studio cohorts, both from WholeHogSports, did. I mean, it was almost hostile in the defense.
Now, it takes a certain type of person to call into a sports radio talk show, so we’re not talking, generally, about the sharpest tools in the shed (I mean, these shows dedicate entire segments to making fun of certain guests, laughing at them, not with them), but it’s not an absurd suggestion. Truth is, Florida’s defense is much better than Arkansas’ and Shannon is a part of Florida.
Truth is, the best and only really great linebacker (Martrell Spaight) Arkansas has had under Bielema came from Shannon. Perhaps not causation. But correlation? It’s possible.
Still (no) Dre
The news is barely that, in the sense it didn’t come as a surprise. It does bear mentioning, though.
Linebacker Dre Greenlaw remains out for this weekend and the following game against LSU. His timetable to return was always the final two games of the season at the very earliest. He may or may not be ready for those as coach Bielema didn’t elaborate beyond the LSU weekend.
Arkansas has struggled to find a replacement for him since he hurt his foot against Alabama. Freshman De’Jon Harris got first crack. Then Dwayne Eugene. Now, it could be either of those two, Khalia Hackett or maybe even Josh Harris.
Despite missing the last two games, Greenlaw still is fourth on the team in tackles, which should signal something about the difficulty the Razorbacks have had in stopping teams.
Sworn to secrecy
Playing exhibition games against Division II opponents is so 2015. All the hip kids/teams are scrimmaging like-talented DI schools in front of no one, but the staffers and Arkansas may be joining the fray next year.
That’s what Mike Anderson said Wednesday at his press conference ahead of the Razorbacks’ second, and final, preseason game, scheduled for Friday night against Emporia State. It would be his preference, in fact.
It’s a grand idea. Games against significantly lesser opponents don’t do all that much to prepare for competition. Such games do give coaches an idea of quality they have on their own team and that can be helpful, if not important, on a team such as Arkansas this year with so many new players. But the same can be done against a quality team, too, in a controlled environment and under coach-dictated circumstances. Plus, it provides an opportunity for the coaches to see how their team stacks up against a comparable program. You know, teams they’ll actually face during the regular season.
Anderson didn’t suggest any team in particular and didn’t even say concretely he was going to do it, but it’s definitely on his radar. That’s a good thing.
- Keon Hatcher is excited to go up against Tabor, maybe the best cornerback in the nation, writes our Trent Shadid.
- Kurt Anderson showed up to media availability in a Chicago Cubs shirt, but he didn’t get to watch much of the team’s World Series win over Cleveland. Fun look at Anderson’s fandom from our Jason Kersey.
- It appears right tackle Brian Wallace will be healthy enough to start Saturday, writes Jimmy Carter at WholeHogSports. His status was up in the air because of an ankle injury.
- Pro Football Focus is one of the best in-depth stats sites in the country. It broke down the Gators’ dominant defensive performance against Georgia last weekend.
- At least one national media personality has Arkansas beating Florida this weekend.
Burns: I’m not sold on Florida whatsoever. I’ll say Arkansas gets the upset at home.
— Bo Mattingly (@SportsTalkwBo) November 2, 2016
- Two top-50 players in the country are headed to New York City to finish their fall tennis seasons for the Razorbacks. Mike Redlicki, No. 11 in the nation, and Jose Salazar, No. 45, are going to the ITA/USTA National Indoor Championships this weekend. Redlicki will face California’s Andre Goransson, the No. 17 player in the nation, while Salazar will meet UNLV’s Jakob Amilon, the No. 124 player in the nation, in the Round of 32.
- Arkansas’ swimming and diving team opens SEC play Thursday and continues Friday with home meets against Florida and South Carolina. The Razorbacks have never beaten Florida, which is ranked No. 18 in the land. Arkansas is coming off a 128-77 victory over the No. 1 Division II team, Drury, last month, a meet in which junior diver Nicole Gillis broke a school record in the one-meter springboard.
- There was no letdown for the Arkansas soccer team in the SEC Tournament on Wednesday afternoon. The Razorbacks, coming off their most successful regular season in school history, dispatched Vanderbilt, 1-0, in the quarterfinals. Arkansas, the No. 3 seed, will play Auburn, the No. 2, Friday at 6 p.m. in Orange Beach, Ala.
Yee-Haw! Today in Arkansas
Some of us like to complain how we see cops speeding down the highway all the time and, man, it isn’t fair.
Well, the police chief in Brinkley, Ark., was caught doing approximately 100 miles per hour by his fellow law enforcement officers.
Thing is, he got off. This per the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Not exactly on the up and up. At least now the mayor is looking into it, anyway.