Clay Henry: Arkansas improves, but not on special teams … ial-teams/

It seems to me our teams in recent years have not put as much emphasis on punting, kicking, and coverage as in the past. I remember how Frank Broyles talked enthusiastically about the special team, and how it was used to make our team more competitive. Nowadays, I get the impression that is being treated as a waste of time and personnel.

After so many years of dismal defenses, it seems we are finally getting closer to having a quality defense. With Chavis, better players and better scheme we have found one leg to stand on. The other leg is still lacking, minus the special team. Do we have a long way to go yet? I think we have some talent on offense that has not come together yet.

QB issue has found some clarity. Ty has the arm, toughness, and mobility. He has got to get help on blocking and protection if we are to put some points on the board. If we are to have an offense, it has to start with the blocking and that is the sixty-four thousand dollar question. I am somewhat encouraged by our performance vs AU that we are improving.

It has been said by some that the special teams play is so poor because of the limited practice time allowed by the NCAA. Everyone in the country is supposed to have the same practice time so that shouldn’t be the only reason. The quality of the athletes on teams varies greatly so some teams will naturally be great. That said, there are many teams with very good special teams that do not have the abundance of super stars, they are just coached harder and work harder at it. Heck, TAM has someone from their student body on their special teams every year (12th man) who is always a Head-Hunter, a really mean and angry dude covered with tats.

Re-building sucks. You correct or adapt to one problem and another shows up, because the program was so fragile entering the season. You just have to try to make overall progress every week, and that the setbacks don’t wreck the progress for the rest of the year.

The punt team can be coached out of the protection mistakes that got us into so much trouble against Auburn. The failure there, as so often happens when punts are blocked/heavily pressured, is likely poor self-scouting. Auburn almost surely picked up something on film we did not see and acted on it. You don’t get jail breaks like that just because the punt team is less athletic than you would like.

The punt return team seems to have trouble finding a returner. Being fast or even fast and shifty is not enough to make a good punt returner. I don’t know how much you can coach punt returners, they’ve either got it or they don’t.

The talent problem is most obvious on special teams blocking and tackling, particularly on the punt teams and the kickoff return unit. If you can’t sustain blocks and can’t avoid blocks you are going to have problems, and doing those things while everyone is running requires talent. If you don’t have that talent on special teams you just have to work around it(directional or very high punting for example) and try to recruit better.