Conflicting needs - opaqueness and transparency

At the University of Tennessee, head football coach Butch Jones has won the enmity of many fans and boosters because of his obstinance with the media. Jones never addresses problems clearly and often cuts off reporters’ legitimate questions. After stultifying losses, Jones’s every phrase is loaded with spin.

I’d say Bret Bielema’s manner with the media is far superior and something Jones should emulate. Still, this season leaves me feeling like we have no visibility into some serious problems.

On offense, issues were very easy to peg. The main problem was lost-yardage plays. Arkansas gave up an unusually large amount of lost-yardage plays, run and pass.

The offense was very good at pushing drives into the red zone - Arkansas ranked very high in its number of red-zone chances. Not efficient, though, at scoring touchdowns in the red zone. The lost-yardage plays were a big part of that. The offensive line gave up far too many. Maybe the offensive scheme was part of the problem.

Scheme certainly makes a difference. Missouri, for example, was the best offense in college football at avoiding lost-yardage plays. They didn’t do that with superior personnel.

It’s on defense where we come away groping for understanding. I’m not inclined to blame talent level for all ills. If you did, you might conclude that Arkansas has its worst talent ever.

One stat that I calculated:

When Arkansas opponents had a play that didn’t result in lost yardage, a turnover, or an incomplete pass, they averaged a 9.7-yard gain.

Three teams were worse - Arizona State, Rice and Wyoming. They all play in leagues that throw the ball far more often than they do in the SEC.

Pass defense wasn’t the biggest problem at Arkansas, though, oh no.

Arkansas opponents ran the ball 387 times, excluding sacks, and scored 36 rushing touchdowns. That’s one TD for every 10.8 rushes.

This is extraordinarily awful. The second-worst was 13.1:1. Average was 25.3:1.

The only teams that gave up at least three rushing touchdowns per game were Arkansas, Florida Atlantic (whose coach just got fired) and Oregon (whose coach just got fired).

The Hogs’ defense gave up scores at the worst rate by far in the SEC (plays per score), and the only thing that saved the team from a losing season was an offense that 1) scored liberally and 2) shortened games.

I’m not sure there is any comforting explanation for what happened on defense, but a lot of fans appear to be unsettled by a lack of understanding. Any sign that the coaches know what went wrong and what to do about it would put a lot of hearts at ease.

Good post. While none of us (or maybe most of us) don’t know what the problem is, I’m confident CBB knows. I suspect it’s mostly a talent issue. It doesn’t have to be a total lack of talent. Just a drop-off at one or two positions can be devastating in this league. If we’re under-talented at say 4-5 positions, it’s easy to see why we can get blown up against SEC competition. Even MU, a pretty bad team, had a good offense when their QB was hitting passes. That good offense against our poor defense, along with key mistakes we made in the red zone, made the difference in that game. But my suspicions about talent (and/or speed) are mostly a guess. I believe CBB will make some changes this year. I just hope they’re enough to improve things.

Its hard for me to believe its mainly a talent issue when we returned nine starters from a defense last year that wasn’t great, but was no where near the historical train wreck we have this year. Part of stopping the run is “want to”. It seemed like many games that we just weren’t in it mentally to stop the run. That’s on the coaches. By the way, I’m a BB fan and hope he stays here a long time. I’m really hoping for a few staff changes.

Good post… yes, the defense was a “head scratcher”… :?

Well, coaches certainly are charged with the getting players mentally ready, but I’m not sure it’s accurate to say it’s the coaches’ fault if a player doesn’t have the desire to do the job. Lots of things affect “want to.” The main thing that affects it is the player himself. Regardless, I’m not sure that desire was the problem. I think speed (or lack of it) was most of the problem. I won’t dispute that coaching, or lack of it, could have contributed to our defensive woes. It very well might have been the primary issue. That’s something I think CBB can & will address if it’s so. However, last year’s defense was awful, too, even if it wasn’t “the historical train wreck we have this year.” There are too many variables for me to believe just because we returned 9 starters that talent wasn’t the primary factor.

Defensive performance in the Florida was was good. That’s the only game we set the edge and saw a swarm of hogs around the ball. Emphasis going into that game by the coaching staff was defensive effort. That should be the case in every time a players hits the field. Coaches and players need to look in the mirrow and to start off do a self evaluation! Coaches need to get it together. Too many times it’s as simple as the other team knew what was happening. Don’t be predictable and be aggressive. That’s what was missing this year!
I’m a coach BB fan. This year our defense was like a Chaney offense predictable

Well that would beg the question then why would the coaches have them on the field then?

Couple of reasons. Desire isn’t always that easy to see. Even effort (or lack of effort) isn’t so easy to discern. Did the player just “get beat” or did he fail to use all his strength or speed? One thing I suspect happened at the Missouri game is many players quit at halftime because they felt they had the game in hand. Obviously they didn’t “lie down” but I suspect the intensity wasn’t there. Why did the coaches have those players in? Because they didn’t foresee that happening–or they did as much as any coach can during halftime to guard against it. You do know that players are people, not robots, don’t you? There’s only so much control a coach, boss, parent or even dictator has over people charged with a task.

Nothing is as simple as they sometimes appear; however, I do think that we have talent deficiencies in all groups on defense. The DL, LBers, and DBs. Also think we have a less talented OL than we were led to believe we would have this year. For all the reasons Mr. Reece outlined and probably some additional ones.

It will be telling if BB retains all his defensive coaches along with the OL coach. He knows if it’s a talent issue (whether physical or mental) and he’ll know which coaches are not pulling their weight.

And on defense it’s probably fair to say there are issues with the players and coaches.

On the OL, IMO, it’s a lack of developed talent hands down. If there is talent here to develop.

UA defenses - even in “up” years - have not had an anchor at all three levels of the defense (DB, LB, DL). When we got close (2006, 2014) we had a really good showing on the field. When you have a strength I would presume you use it to scheme against your weakness(es). What happens when your winter/spring/summer/fall camp assessment that X is your strength is wrong? Worse, what happens when there is no level of the defense with a player that can transform that level into a strength?

Find one player who can lock down their position on the DL, at LB, and in the secondary and suddenly you can scheme around some talent (this is how the offense enjoyed some success for much of the year).

Fans grumbling about recruiting should quit trying to recruit 25 5-star gods and focus on one difference-maker at DE or DT, one at LB, and one in the back end (safety was weaker than CB this year, so begin there). Recruiting 3-5 is easier than 25. Of course, all of us are guilty of a bit of armchair quarterbacking - if the emotional buttons were easy to push, if the schemes were easy to conceive, if the execution was easy to coach up…we’d all be making $4M a year.

At the collegiate level, coaching should be the different maker. However, I saw too many holes where no linebacker was not even near or defensive ends not contain the edge or the middle linebacker trying to cover a speedy slot receiver. I agree that there is something seriously wrong with the defensive performance this year and too me it’s not just talent. :frowning:

I feel like we are getting closer all the time to an explanation, as the beat writers give us more and more to go on. Seems like a major part of this = veteran players having been placed in positions of responsibility but not always following through with the right effort or fundamentals. As though some would slack off after bursts of good play.