Running Game

One thought about the ineffective pass blocking we are all watching. And it’s important we remember this as we watch CBB teams.

His offensive lineman, the type he recruits, values and the way they are developed, is built around the notion that they will be able to run the damn ball. Period. And when teams totally have to commit to stopping that, all of the waggles, boots and play action work great.

But his type of lineman are probably not ever going to be great pass blockers if the defense HAS NO RESPECT for the run game. He recruits brutes. Tough guys. People built to smash and mash you. Especially after being developed.
So as I watch the Ole Miss game, my #1 key will be is the o-line getting any push. Or opening any holes. Because if we have to pass almost every down again to move the.ball, we won’t be able to pass block against them either.

I wonder if they increase good on good in the run game in prep this week. And get Devwah more work. Please.

Totally agree. The inability to run effects everything.

I wrote this Saturday: The Razorbacks struggle to impose their will running the football and have been particularly bad in short-yardage situations. As a result, they have to pass with an offensive line ill-suited for pass protection at this point. It’s a catch-22.

They’re averaging 2.5 yards per carry in SEC play. Obviously sacks factor in there, which Bret pointed out Saturday. But still, the 3 main backs had 50 yards on 15 carries (3.5 ypc) against Bama’s starters.

Rawleigh is a solid, one-cut back. Devwah may be the feature guy by next year but is still learning. Kody is best used in pass pro and as a receiver out of the backfield. But none of them have much space.

Bret mentioned how they stress the OL “strain,” holding their blocks a bit longer. Said there were a few big runs that could’ve developed if that had happened Saturday. Skipper and Ragnow get it, but the younger guys are still learning, which is evident in how much they’ve struggled against good defensive lines. Obviously they’ve played some good defensive fronts. Saturday could be an opportunity to take a step forward. Ole Miss is 12th in yards per carry against (4.9).

If all they cared about was pass protection, they would not have Froholdt in the lineup at all, and Ragnow would be playing tackle or guard instead of center. Really, he would be the guy most physically capable of handling left tackle. You would have Ragnow at left tackle, Skipper at right tackle, Wallace playing guard, Raulerson and Rogers in the other two spots.

Would that line be better in run blocking too? No idea, but I bet it would be better than the worst pass-protection line we’ve ever seen.

The main problem here is that Arkansas has a pro-style offense that is designed to run the ball 60% of the time. Players have been slotted into positions with that run/pass mix foremost in mind. The running game isn’t working well enough, so against good competition the Hogs end up failing in the run and playing way too many downs in obvious passing situations without enough protection for the QB.

They could have improved on this situation, but it would have meant trashing the offensive scheme they wanted to run. Some people would have loved that.

On offense and defense this season, you see all sorts of signs that the Razorbacks got caught in no man’s land. They do not have enough players that fit the schemes they wanted to run, at least not today. On both offense and defense, the coaches are being forced, grudgingly, to compromise. Forced by the ineffective running game, forced by outlier-bad results in run defense and pass protection.

From my view, the initial mistake on offense was a failure to properly prioritize the positions on the line. They needed to find a legitimate left tackle first and foremost. The best offensive lineman on the team should have been moved to left tackle. Instead, they handed the job to a redshirt freshman for all of spring and part of August. Some freshmen can handle that, but it’s a move you’d better be right about. They were wrong, and it was so obvious that the Hogs moved Skipper to the left side in the second week of August.

In March, Arkansas did not know it would be joined by Jake Raulerson later in the spring. We were looking, for center, at Ragnow, Rogers and a whole lotta reaches after that. In that situation it might be understandable to put Ragnow at center, and August might have been a pretty late time to decide that Ragnow could be the best option at left tackle.

When I talked with a couple of old hands (longtime college coaches, retired) recently about what they thought about Arkansas in the A&M and Alabama games, both asked why Ragnow was playing center instead of left tackle. I had to explain the sequence of events. They both thought the real mistake was not putting him there years ago, though they recognized Arkansas’s priority was on having powerful players at the tackles, not the most agile ones.

It’s easy to say now that Arkansas has two other players who could play center, but it only became that way after spring. To me, the choices are difficult now. What I’d do to salvage the season is prioritize pass protection instead of run blocking. That would mean removing Froholdt from the lineup and completely reevaluating the center and guard situations. Does Ragnow need to move back to guard? Is somebody on the bench who would be a better option at guard, if the foremost need is to protect Allen?

If you make moves to improve run-blocking (such as replacing Raulerson at right guard), will that hurt pass protection? Or can the running game improve enough to take off some pressure? Can the Hogs upgrade the line by replacing Raulerson with Ragnow and starting someone else at center? Does the line have one weak link, or two?

What I would do is not what Arkansas is likely to do. They will double down their focus on repairing the running game, to try to reestablish the play-action threat and put Allen in better down/distance situations. Stay committed to their philosophy. If it works, it will look brilliant.

We failed to convert a 4th and 1 against Alcorn St. Much work to do in this quilted line.

One more consideration:

National rankings of our remaining opponents for rushing defense S&P+:

  1. LSU
  2. Auburn
  3. Florida
  4. Mississippi State
  5. Ole Miss
  6. Missouri

National rankings for rushing defense success rate:

  1. LSU
  2. Auburn
  3. Florida
  4. Mississippi State
  5. Ole Miss
  6. Missouri

National rankings for passing defense S&P+:

  1. LSU
  2. Auburn
  3. Florida
  4. Ole Miss
  5. Missouri
  6. Mississippi State

National rankings for passing defense success rate:

  1. Florida
  2. Auburn
  3. LSU
  4. Missouri
  5. Ole Miss
  6. Mississippi State

National rankings for adjusted sack rate:

  1. Auburn
  2. LSU
  3. Florida
  4. Missouri
  5. Mississippi State
  6. Ole Miss

Florida has played UMass, Kentucky, North Texas, Tennessee and Vandy. Its defense might not be as good as it looks in these statistical rankings.

But it looks like three more opponents will be well equipped to shred the Hogs’ pass protection.

Ole Miss - Defense equally ordinary vs. run and pass.
Auburn - Solid all-around defense. Probably going to have to focus on pass protection.
Florida - Maybe a better chance to run on them vs. passing.
LSU - Solid all-around defense. Probably facing a lot of obvious passing situations.
MSU - Defense equally ordinary, run or pass.
Missouri - Really poor run defense, mediocre vs. pass.

This is a really good and interesting thread. Lots of solid information and no sniping at each other. I know very little about the intricacies of playing in the offensive line. I have always heard though, that a great line has developed great cohesion.

It seems Randy pointed out the lack of cohesion in the constant position swapping back and forth among starters and back-ups. This was happening, not only the spring, but in all of fall practice and even into the early season games.

Was some of this happening because we brought in a new offensive line coach? I can’t remember ever seeing so much indecision in finally arriving at a starting OL when there weren’t a rash of injuries. I’m sure cross-training of positions is important for quality depth in case of injuries. But, it seems that if the coaches had settled on the starting five early in the spring and they’d gotten 80% of the spring and fall repetitions together, they would have developed that needed cohesion.

Ah, how soon you forget. Worst pass protection line ever? How about 1997, Danny Ford’s last team, which couldn’t run block or pass block. Clint Stoerner spent the entire season running for his life, and couldn’t escape 42 times. FORTY-TWO SACKS. Our pass blocking would have to get 100% worse to give up 42 sacks (we’re at 14 halfway through the season, with Bama and A&M already in the rear-view mirror).

Our Oline is plagued with multiple players that miss assignments. They miss them from a lack of experience and because Defenses seizing upon our weak links with over loads, blitzes and confusing alignments. The protection can be totally screwed if ONE guy misses his assignment. The defenses are over loading our 5 men with 8 on many plays or delayed blitzes. Unfortunately, it appears we may have to burn them with passing to stop the 8 man fronts. It won’t get any better soon.

Going back to the OP, I said before the A&M game that we were not running the ball nearly well enough and we needed those consistant 3-5 yard runs to be effective. It seems we can consistantly get maybe 1 yard and not that against A&m or even Alcorn. That will not work.

I did not get real concerned when they were moving linemen around in the spring. That is what spring is for, but when it kept on in Aug. and Sep. I knew it was real trouble.

This was suppose to be Oline U. What happened and more importantly, WHY? We have not had that answer. Sure, Denver left, but that is one player. A good manager plans ahead for such things. Why were they not ready? This is either Oline U or not and it has certainly been not this season.

Perhaps most importantly, what steps are being taken to see that it does not happen again? A&M and Bama sure do not seem to have problems rebuilding their Olines in the spring. Is there an SEC rule that says that Arkansas cannot rebuild their line in the spring, but other members can?