AUBURN, Ala. — Bret Bielema has built a brand at Arkansas — a run-first, ground-and-pound offense that throws as many pounds as it can at defenses in the trenches.
But when Auburn senior defensive tackle Montravius Adams first sat down to watch film of Bielema’s current creation, he didn’t see that “three yards and a cloud of dust” style.
He saw an offense that is going to bring some new tricks to the Plains this Saturday.
“They seemed to use a lot of perimeter runs and passing,” Adams said. “It’s a little different. It wasn’t the same as last year, you know, with a lot of whams and traps. But they still have that in their offense, in their arsenal. You just never know, you know. You just never know what they’re going to bring to the table.”
One of those new developments will be a passing attack that averages more than 30 attempts per game. Junior quarterback Austin Allen is the only quarterback in college football to have seven multi-touchdown games this season.
“This year, offensively, they score a lot of points,” Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said. “One of the best teams in the league in scoring points. I think it starts with their quarterback … He doesn’t look like a first-year starter. He looks like he’s been around a long time.”
Allen averages well over 250 passing yards per game with a receiving corps that is built on experienced upperclassmen.
Three of them have more than 350 receiving yards in 2016 — and that’s not including senior tight end Jeremy Sprinkle, who adds 4 touchdowns and nearly 200 yards into the mix.
“When you look at them offensively, they’ve got a very talented quarterback,” Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said Wednesday evening. “They’re very talented at wide receiver. They run very good routes. They’re strong. They all have good catch radiuses. They really play well.”
But, as Steele says, this is still Arkansas under Bielema — a head coach who rose to fame with powerful, pro-style football at Wisconsin. The running game features Rawleigh Williams III, who ranks No. 2 in the SEC in rushing yards per game this season with 112.1.
The Razorbacks still love to run the football. They just do it differently thanks to the threat of Allen.
“In my opinion, I think (Allen) is a great quarterback,” Adams said. “And their running back, I think he’s second in the SEC in rushing. They have the offensive weapons. I think it’ll be a good test for our defense.”
With an efficient passing game that loves to stretch the field, Arkansas’ 2016 offense is truly multiple. The fact it operates inside formations that use more fullbacks and tight ends than a traditional spread offense will be another adjustment for Auburn’s defense to make off the bye week.
“I will say that there is some tape out there in terms of this year that has a little bit of a different flair to it instead of just traditional Arkansas since he’s been there,” Steele said.
The Tigers are relying on the experience gained from their Week 4 successes against LSU to guide them in a matchup with another pro-style team.
This one just needs to be tweaked thanks to the threat of an established passing game, which is something that doesn’t fit the original brand of Bielema.
“(Auburn’s coaches) told us before the season even started we’re only going to have two or three teams that’s going to be that pounding team,” junior linebacker Tre’ Williams said. “So once we played LSU, we got that foundation down to know what we’re going to have to do, and now we’ve got Arkansas.
“We already know the foundation. Of course we’re going to tweak some things, but we’re going to be fine.”