Defensive Questions Abound

In the next few weeks we may, or may not, get some answers to what really happened to this defense the last two seasons.
Some of the questions I would love to see answered are:

  1. How could two very highly regarded defensive back coaches turnout such a weak secondary? It makes no sense that coaches Jennings and Rhoades suddenly forgot how to coach. We recruited a lot of DBs during that period and yet none excelled. I hate that we lost a great recruiter like Jennings if it was not his fault or see Rhoades held back from DC for the same reason.

  2. Again with two highly regarded LB coaches how could only Greenlaw and Ellis earn the trust of the coaches? Eugene seemed too at the end, but he did not appear to play at a high level. Harris did show promise, but again at the end.

  3. Are questions one and two recruiting issues? Development issues? DC issues? HC issues? To me it is quite a puzzle.

  4. Who truly decided on the fearful, unagressive play calling, particularly in the second half of games with a lead? Smith? CBB?

  5. Is it the coaches or the players fault that proper angles, setting the edge, protecting the middle of the field and tackling were issues that could not be learned in two full seasons and off seasons?

  6. And is going to the 3-4 a smoke screen for all the above questions? If it is so good why did it take two seasons to flip the switch?

I offer this not to open up an opportunity to rant or blame, but to have a true discussion on what we saw the last two season.

Questions 1 and 2 are recruiting. People complain all the time about Petrino’s recruiting and especially on defense. Take a look at NFL rosters and SEC on field production and then respond back who recruited better on defense while at Arkansss - Petrino or Bielema four years in to his tenure?

HH, you raised many good questions, and like you, I don’t have any answers. I’m just as dumbfounded as you about our defense. I can offer this to your post. At the airport coming back from the Belk Bowl, I had a chance to have long conversation with the linebacker coach for the Gamecocks. He was flying out of a gate near us. He was surprised by our total collapse in the second half. He could only talk about their players. He indicated this generation of players is tougher to coach. He called them the “young millenniums” and they have a different mindset. He shared that they could be in the correct defense and for some inexplicable reason there would have a breakdown. The film revealed that players would do something that they were not coached to do and it was happening over and over. They implemented individual film review with each defensive player to go over what the player did and what he was coached to do. I assume that we are doing the same thing. He says it helped. So I guess as others have stated, part of problem rests with the players and part has to be on the coaches. Yes, talent could an issue, but busted assignments also is an issue. I don’t like our kids are any different than the gamecocks.

Smith was not able to develop a scheme or adjust the scheme to meet the talent he had. You can’t coach speed but you can coach reaction. I think the back 7 has very little SEC speed but the back 4 had pursuit angle issues as well. We did not have the speed to recover on press coverage except with Pulley. The back 4 have the least speed while LB has SEC speed in Greenlaw. Harris has pretty good size and speed at LB but as a freshman.

Smith’s defense is a gap control line that funnels plays to the LB with complex Key reads. The defense requires a scheme smart LB corp with SEC speed. Ellis had the smarts but Greenlaw had the speed. Our LB’s didn’t play good enough for the scheme so the back 4 had to clean up mistakes. Ellis was smart and knew where everyone should be but he was slow. Greenlaw was solid as a FR because his speed bailed him out. We also found that Greenlaw’s speed may have bailed out Ellis when we lost Greenlaw against Bama.

The Dline was full of athletic fast twitch guys that were asked to be knuckle dragging pluggers. Agim, Ledbetter, Wise, and to some degree Johnson were asked to completely negate their top skills as run pluggers. The VaTech game’s first half Defense used an attacking front 4 and showed what Smith wasted all year. Ledbetter was a beast, Wise was active, and Agim was more active. The LB’s were much better with Greenlaw playing even though he was rusty. The back 4 played better too.

wow.
great post

HH you bring up some things I have been calling strange happenings for two years. And I say it will all come into the midnight clear this year. Another year like this last one and there will be a new head coach or the fans will be rioting. Bank on it.

Fans are not required to play a role in the administration of athletic programs.

why would fans be rioting? I ask this honestly. Coach B had a disappointing year. Fine line though from 9-4 and 7-6. Tale of two second halves. Coach Nutt had back to back losing seasons and did not perform well in bowl games. Coach B has taken team to 3 straight bowl games. He is not satisfied but remember the flying the banners has been something that everyone remembers about our program and that is not a good thing.

You don’t make a change just to make a change. Unless you are certain you obtain a better result, you stick with Coach B.

No the fans won’t be rioting, but many fans have serious concerns about where we are headed. I was at the Belk Bowl and the fans at the hotel where we were staying were just disgusted after the game. One fan took off all Razorback gear and said no more monetary support or season tickets. Many were hard core Razorback fans. Many like Coach B, but now are starting to question his coaching ability. So next could year could be his make or break year. I hope he finishes strong in recruiting and makes the whatever changes he thinks are needed to field a team that can play for 4 quarters.

The fans that are on message boards and call in shows are more likely to be extreme - one way or the other. My friends are people I am comfortable around so their views are not much different than mine. I don’t want a biased sample set of people I know so I talk to the general public I don’t know very well. The general public I talk to were happy with the job Bielema is doing prior to the Missouri game. All of them seem to like Enos but think Smith needs to leave. After the VaTech game people were pissed off and venting while also offering to help Smith pack. Bowl games are emotional so I don’t get too worried about fan reaction at the bowl. Now everyone has calmed down and they remember that NO coach has recruited consistently better than Bielema, they love the program based on character, they like the Enos offense, they are impressed with Austin Allen, they are concerned that our defensive talent is poor, concerned about what Pittman did his last year for recruiting, many people are sick of the domination of Bama, many are sick of us being the SECW where you have very little chance to survive, and some are questioning why the SEC is good for Arkansas after we have already made a ton of money. ESPN’s woes and the impact on TV contracts were discussed during these holiday interaction too.

Treat, It is what it is. We are in a tough SEC conference and I don’t believe that we are going anywhere soon. We have an elite track and cross country program, a good baseball program, the women soccer program appears to be turning the corner along with the women’s gymnastics program. All remaining programs are average at best. However, when you look at the national rankings in our other sports program, the SEC will have several schools ranked. The SEC conference fields some of the best teams in America in just about any sport. As I said it is what is and we have to compete.

Too me, the jury is still out on Bielema and Anderson. I like both of them and hope they succeed. We have the facilities and support base to have successful programs, particularly in basketball. I see no reason why we can’t consistently have a top 25 program and make the tournament every year. So far, Anderson has not been able to deliver. Yes, he has outstanding recruiting classes coming and maybe we will get there.

I was at Belk Bowl and yes, I, was totally disgusted by our second half performance. I have had time to reflect and I’m still disgusted. When VT scored their first touchdown, I turned to my wife and said we just lost the football game. You could feel it and see it in the team. So something is not right with the program. We should not have lost that game. We can analyze and post all kinds reasons, but Bielema is our coach and he has to the make whatever changes he feels necessary to improve performance. I hope he has reached out to his mentors for advice. We have a good nucleus of players returning and a good recruiting class coming. I also hope he has strong senior leadership on next year’s team. I’m optimistic about next year but he has to “show me”…I won’t believe any preseason hype. I’m waiting to see how we perform in the games. I want to see a competitive team through 4 quarters that play like true Razorbacks. If we have another season like this year, he has lost me.