AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele knows what to expect from Arkansas’ offense.
The defensive coordinator realizes that when Austin Allen gets knocked down, the Razorback quarterback is probably going to get right back up. Steele also understands that Rawleigh Williams, who currently leads the SEC in rushing (785 yards) is going to be a threat on the ground.
Most of all, he’s aware of what Auburn’s defensive line will be up against in the Razorbacks’ front five.
“They have a huge offensive line, of course,” Steele said. “They’re Arkansas. So with Bret as the head coach, they’ll keep bringing a tailback in. It doesn’t matter if one leaves or two leave at the same time, they’ll just bring another one in. It’s hard to tell a lot of difference.”
Still, for all of its size and strength, the Razorbacks’ offensive line hasn’t been dominant this season. Arkansas ranks near the bottom of the SEC in sacks allowed (17) and has given up the most sack yards (151) in the league.
Some of those issues have been due to changes on staff. Former Arkansas offensive line coach Sam Pittman joined Kirby Smart’s staff at Georgia in December. Kurt Anderson, who was serving as a Buffalo Bills offensive line coach, was hired in January.
Another factor has been inexperience. Bielema has three new starters on the line. Arkansas’ right tackle Brian Wallace is just a sophomore. Razorback right guard Jake Raulerson is a junior, but has been adjusting to SEC play since transferring from Texas. Then there’s Hjalte Froholdt — originally from Svendborg, Denmark — who switched to offense during spring workouts.
“Our guys have made steady improvement,” Bielema said. “They’re good football players. Two of them are very, very early in their careers. You have a true sophomore who’s from the other part of the world in Denmark who’s come over and played as a true freshman.”
The growth was apparent in the Razorbacks 34-30 win over Ole Miss last weekend, too. The Hogs totaled 429 yards of offense and Williams rushed for 180 yards on the Rebels. Bielema credits the success to what he calls “SEC strain.”
“It’s just beginning to understand what it means to play in the SEC,” Bielema said. “(It) means you just kind of block a little bit harder, a little bit longer and maybe our quarterback will stay up. Maybe our running back will get five yards instead of three. Maybe our play will have success versus failure. I think our guys are getting it and I think they’ll continue to get better.”
Steele isn’t concerned about the Razorbacks offensive line or their continued improvement, though. Auburn’s defense will look to continue their momentum gained against Mississippi State before the bye week.
“It always has been and always will be, it’s about us,” Steele said. “They’re not going to allow them to put more than 11 guys out there and we get 11 out there, too, and there’s one ball. So, do your job.”