Question for Clay

Clay , I agree with you on the OL being a key reason in the last two losses.

What do you think the problem is? Talent, Coaching, Depth? Do you think Anderson can fix it?

Also do you hear things on coaching staff changes?

I have always felt there would be coaching changes after the season. Seems to be the trend all around college football that there is change. And, you can’t have a defense like this season without there being change. I figure some will leave on their own. Some might be told to leave. At any rate, it will probably take a few days to happen, maybe a few weeks.

As far as offensive line, it was clearly experience as much as anything. Early in the year, there wasn’t enough bulk on the line.

I’ve always thought youth in the offensive line was a severe liability. I wrote about that last spring and in August. It was the area I focused upon starting in bowl practices. I asked questions about the offensive line at every opportunity and it’s where I focused my eyes in every practice I was able to watch.

What you learn about offensive linemen, they need time to develop physically and mentally. They need time in the weight room. They need to mature as far as legs and arms. It takes several years, not several months.

I think it was two things, new linemen and a new coach. Colton Jackson was not ready to play. He still might be a good player. But he needs more core strength, more strength in legs and upper body. He’s a fantastic athlete.

Jake Raulerson didn’t have the bulk to play right guard in the SEC. But Johnny Gibson wasn’t ready. Gibson is going to be a very good player and has the bulk and strength and it’s only going to get better.

Brian Wallace has a lot of the qualities you want, but as far as understanding all of the complexities of the offense, and trying to figure out new technique from a new coach, it didn’t happen as fast as you’d want.

Is it the most talented offensive line in the league? Not by a long stretch. But it’s the combination of youth and inexperience that hurts. Remember, every single player was at a new position this season, all of them. Dan Skipper moved from left to right just ahead of the start of the season. Frank Ragnow had played center, but he was at right guard last year and also spent time at other spots in August.

And, all were under a new coach. I think Kurt Anderson is a very good coach. Things didn’t go well in many areas for this offensive line, but I don’t think it was a coaching issue.

Johnny Gibson had played left tackle and right tackle in camp, finally moving to guard at the start of the season. And, he was learning new technique and a new spot at the same time.

Obviously, there has been great detail in Hjalte Froholdt’s conversion from the defensive line to the offensive line. You saw him struggle in the spring and he’s still learning. That’s a tough situation and he probably did as well as you could expect.

I fully expect the offensive line to be much improved next season. There will be more competition. Losing only one starter is a big deal. Getting Ragnow back is a huge deal. It can’t be underestimated.

There are other areas of inexperience that play into this, too. The running backs were inexperienced. They didn’t always hit the right spot, or make the right cut. I think both Williams and Whaley are adequate, but not elite just yet.

I also am sure that Austin Allen could have been better at recognizing where the blitzes and stunts were coming from to help check to better plays. I saw times when I knew they were outnumbered in a spot. That means you have to get out of a play that that is vulnerable to that look. That’s inexperience. He’ll be better at that, also benefiting from not getting hit so much.

With no disrespect to Clay intended, you didn’t need to be an insider to see that OL was a huge concern coming into the season. I and several other long-time observers posted about that very issue several times during the off-season. And, certainly, Clay discussed it frequently.

This OL problem was no surprise.

Clay has done an excellent job of expanding on that in his response above. The only thing I will add - and it is something for younger fans to file away for future consideration - is that you can NEVER assume that the OL is going to be “fine” one year simply because four of the 5 starters return. What most don’t consider is that, more-so than any other position group, the OL is a unit that must work in coordination to be effective.

If four of the five perform perfectly on a given play, and the fifth makes a mistake, the odds are great that the play will blow up. And even adding one new element (player) the mix means that you have to totally reinvent the chemistry and timing among the five players in the OL. it’s virtually impossible to predict how quickly - or, even IF - that will happen. In some seasons, it’s happened surprisingly fast even with 2 or 3 new starters; other seasons, replacing just one has taken a frustratingly long time, in terms of the OL hitting it’s collective stride.

Such is the frustration and beauty of college football. Each season is a new event, even as there are proven elements from the season(s) before. It’s an ever-changing kaleidoscope and you hope to one day capture the magic and get enough of the elements clicking to have a championship season.

One of the things I have thought about in regards to next year, who would be the best left tackle? I don’t think there is any doubt it would be Frank Ragnow. Is there anyone close to him to insert at center? Would that be easier than finding someone to play left tackle? I’ve asked those questions and talked to coaches about that. Right now, there isn’t someone you’d say could be effective at center. It’s such an important position in this offense. But I will ask it again as we move forward. Of course, left tackle is a huge spot. It’s so important in locking down protection on the quarterback’s back side. Ragnow could play it. There is no doubt in my mind.

One thing to consider, if he’s a brilliant left tackle, he can make a lot more money in the NFL than he could at center. I would have pitched that to him to make sure he came back. But, he’s coming back, so maybe that wasn’t needed anyway.

How you play in the offensive line always determines the season. It’s an unbelievable part of football.

Agreed, Clay, that the QB must get better at making adjustments and executing in the running game. That was where Arkansas had the greatest slippage this season. Brandon Allen had mastered fakes and adjustments. He wasn’t overly prone to favor throwing vs. handing off.

As we struggled at the tackle opposite Skipper this year, I always wondered why they didn’t move Ragnow there but assumed he lacked something in terms of measurables.

I’ve thought he was our best OL. I think it’s baloney that he wasn’t on the All-Sec teams.

And, I had read that they really liked Rodgers, although he’s short.

They need the Jucos they recruited last year to contribute. You don’t recruit Jucos to sit and when both of those did I figured we were in bad shape.

Great thread!

It made me nervous in the offseason when we kept reading about the musical chairs in the o-line. I hope we found the right spots for everyone and that they can stay there. if not, then I hope they’re moved early in the spring.

I have said repeatedly that I believe changing o-line coaches is a big deal…especially if that means changes in technique, And CBB made it clear that it did in this case. Changing technique in anything is hard. And takes time. And what often happens when the pressures on? The subconscious often tries to revert to the old technique…often leaving you between the old and the new…which is worse than either. Throw in the need for synchronicity between each member of the o-line while changing technique and you have a significant short-term problem.

Which is why I think we can anticipate a much better o-line next year. Assuming we fill LT, as Clay discussed above.

A better offensive line would not have been enough to overcome Alabama or Auburn this year, but it would have been enough to have comfortably stay ahead of Missouri and Virginia Tech with 3 or 4 score leads at halftime. I also believe it would have been the deciding factor in the Texas A&M game. All people remember about that game is losing 45-24, but we were about 4 inches from taking the lead late in the 3rd quarter, plus we lost at least 10 points in the first half after being inside the 10. Very true that we got whipped in 3 losses, the other 3, for sure 2 of them, were wins with better offensive line production.

Were the expectations too high for this team this season?

Most people expected 7 or 8 wins.

It was the manner of the losses that caused more frustration and make the season seem worse than it was numerically

I agree 100%

I was at 6-6 before the season, changed to 7-5 during Fall camp, but am still disappointed in the outcome. It isn’t the record, but how we played.

there were a couple of “just barely” Ws in there too…this was not a good team this year by several parameters.

very enlightening thread.

I think most of us had concerns about the line in the spring and summer with all the talk about experimenting etc.

We ended up having to start a late undersized post grad recruit from weak TX team, take a guy from D, and even start a walk on late in the year.

Given coach B’s DNA, the weak line play in year four and lack of recruits there is the only thing that has made me question coach B, and I like him and believe in him for the most part.

I know we lost one guy last year that should not have gone pro but how in the world does a coach who is all about O line end up with such a patchwork line in year four?

So hopeful just a blip, and certainly they will be be better with a lot of bulk and work in off season.

we would have been better off early in the year with Zach Rogers at C and Frank opposite from where Skipper landed. Reading between the lines it seems that most our information sources support the work of Kurt Anderson. I don’t like his splits and complex techniques which left our guys reaching and off balance a lot. KISS.

I don’t doubt that getting use to KA style will result in much more potential for improvement, but we are cursed with potential up and down the roster. Hard to believe many JUCO’s no matter their position can step into the SEC and play. Bama would eat them up and spit em out, same for the talent at FL, LSU, A$M and so on. Which unit did not help the other by providing meaningful practice reps? OL or DL? Is BB making the right hires for the program and is that the same agenda as for BB? There were many, many proven OL coaches who were available when the KA hire was made. I ready to let it ride and feel bad for Skipper and Sprinkle who were kind of hung out to dry for the year IMO, by the coaching changes made.

I hear you. Is it coaching or just not bringing in the kind of talent you would expect from coach B for O line?

Not to dog coach B because I think he’s going to be great still for us, but how did we get this patchwork for year four of a program in O line?

Ray, good question about the practice reps. I think you could argue that it effected both sides of the ball. But, I thought it hurt the defensive line more. You also raise an interesting thought about the splits. I heard arguments that Pittman’s splits were too narrow to get any angles in the run game up front. Anderson definitely favored wider splits, as does Enos. It was clear that Enos favored hiring Anderson. I believe that was his choice, meaning they sit on the same side as far as technique and the splits. I do know that Skipper got better with the technique taught to him by Anderson. He was on the ground far less than his first three seasons when his balance was not a strength. His balance did improve to the point that he is now being talked about as an NFL prospect. I didn’t think that would happen. I’ve been surprised that Zach Rogers doesn’t play. But clearly they worry about his lack of length and ability to cover an area. He worked a lot of reps with the first team at both guard and center in the spring and fall, yet he didn’t get on the field much.