State of the Hogs: Looking at the Issues

Here’s a column from the front page: … s-53-poin/

Agree Clay. I saw that especially on defense tight away and it became glaring at A&M. Now the big question. Why in year 4 is there only 1 or 2 SEC players on the back end of the defense and why has more speed (a must in the SEC) not been brought in?

Next question is speed being brought into the program with this in coming class? If not, why not?

This team has been overall too slow for several years. If I can see that, I would think anyone could. Arkansas history was not always big, but they were fast.

Aloha Clay,

As you know, I totally miss judged this year’s team. Felt our DL was going to be our strength and if we were fast enough last year to compete, with nine returning starters, we would be fast enough this year. Oh well, not the first or last time I will be wrong.

However, I don’t understand why the coaching staff, which should have realized our defensive major weakness’ last Spring, has not been able to adjust the scheme to match the limited talent on hand. They failed to adjust last Spring, throughout this football season and even during the Auburn game. Perhaps go to a five man front. I’m no expert, but I expect to see adjustments from our coaching staff who are the experts. So we can’t set the edge. They must have known that last Spring. Obviously was horribly exposed by ATM. And still, after eight games, we can’t set the edge. Why? Are there not any adjustments to make that happen?

A 56-3 ass kicking in CBB’s fourth year is embarrassing to ALCON. We may not be as fast as others, but at least (CBB, coaching staff and players) put forth greater effort than the opposition. Were’s the pride and fight?

This staggering loss to Auburn should be sounding alarm bells throughout the football offices. My most vivid memory from the 1980 Sugar Bowl was that we were too small and too slow compared to Alabama. 36 years later, we’re still too small and too slow. Honestly, what is it going to take to catch up with Bama, Auburn and the rest of the SEC West? 36 years later and we’re still lagging.

AD Jeff Long has/ is providing the best salaries and facilities. CBB is fond of metrics and analysts. Recommend he hire the best to figure out why we can’t recruit the size and speed to be competitive and fix it.

Lastly, in the military, you are only as strong as your weakest link. Always expect and plan for the enemy to locate and exploit your weakest area(s). Obviously CBB and the coaching staff failed to have a winning plan either scheme wise or talent wise, to adjust and compensate for our weak defense and OL. They appeared to have fixed the kicking game but that is about it.

As NavyHog and others have pointed out, if our OL can’t protect the QB, then adjust the play calling accordingly. If we can’t stop the run with a four man front, then add more bodies and/ or adjust until we can stop it.

I don’t mind losing as long as we are competitive and give great effort both as a coaching staff and as players. But against the big boys our pride and effort has been MIA.


Without question, what we want is a perfect season. That’s the goal and unless that’s reached there will be issues to discuss. Speed is the toughest thing to secure, especially in cornerbacks. It was clear they tried to recruit corners, and did find one with true SEC speed, Britto Tutt. They also had Kevin Richardson as the top backup at three spots in the secondary. Both of those were lost to surgery. Britto was a speed guy who could help. It was also hopeful that DJ Dean would return from foot surgery. He’s not been 100 percent yet after sustaining a hamstring pull of a serious nature in camp. So that’s three top players lost in the secondary. They did bring in two freshmen safeties, as I mentioned but they aren’t ready yet.

As far as playing a five-man front against a spread, I don’t think that is the answer.

Don’t call passes if you can’t protect? I don’t think that is the answer. The offensive line struggles as much with the running game as with the passing game. I think when you see a heavy front designed to stop the run – and they have in several games – that the pass is the best option.

I understand the frustration. The answer is to recruit better. Develop better. They did sign players in both the secondarty and the offensive line, maybe not enough or good enough. They will develop. I think the issues in recruiting show up from the first year or two when the losing was heavy

I think the recruiting on defense was solid last year. Unfortunately, throwing freshmen out there in the first season is probably not a good solution.

Again, I don’t blame anyone for being frustrated. I do see SEC wins. They have not beaten some teams, but have done well against some others. They are 5-0 over the last two plus seasons against two of the strongest teams, LSU and Ole Miss. That’s the tough part to understand. They also won three times on the road last year against Tennessee, Ole Miss and LSU. Those are good victories.

So there have been gains, just not enough. It is very tough in the SEC West. When you take a step forward, there is always someone waiting to knock you back. It’s the nature of this league and this schedule. Never has Arkansas faced so many ranked teams in such a short time. Over half of the teams Bielema has faced in his time as coach have been ranked. No other Arkansas coach has faced that.

They are not where anyone wants them to be right now, but they have gained in a lot of areas.

Great analysis, Clay. Spot on. I’ve never understood why we can’t recruit better, but there are obviously reasons for it. I have been a Hog all my life and it’s difficult to remember a defense this slow and thin. I think it was the Ol’ Ball Coach that said “Bret’s gonna have to recruit his way out of this”. I fear we all will have to be patient for awhile longer. I feel strongly we have the right coach, but he certainly has his work cut out for him. I was at the AU game and many of their fans admitted to me they were as surprised at the outcome as I was. Their comments were that they didn’t know if we were that bad or if they were that good. As the Wise Man said, “We’ll see”…

I still do not understand how 9 returning starters from last year’s defense could be worse this year. I agree fully with lack of depth issue on o line and lack of speed issue as that has been issue for a while.

I have no idea if they are or aren’t but they leave the perception sometimes.

It seems like once they settle on the starters, they just can’t change for some reason. To me, we have players playing out of position. Taiwan played the entire season last year out of position. We would never have known how good Drew Morgan was last year if Keon hadn’t gotten hurt because he wouldn’t have seen the field.

Why aren’t Ramsey and Scoota getting the majority of the time a LB? I know they are young but are you saying they would be playing WORST than the current LB play?

Ledbetter and Sosa are getting blown up at tackle. Are TJ and Capps really WORSE?

Are you telling me that guys like Gibson and Merrick would be WORSE in short yardage run plays where our OL is just blown up?

I still believe the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

It has to be incredibly frustrating to be on the bench and see how bad the starters are playing and knowing you have no hope of seeing the field.

Generally, if you are second team, you are not as good. So I guess that answers your question, right? I think those that attended scrimmages saw the deficient areas in the offensive line. And, those on the second team struggled more than those on the first team. The next best offensive lineman on the second unit is Zach Rogers. He’s really the backup at center, right guard and left guard. It’s telling when Jake Hall, at 266, is suddenly the backup at left tackle. If there is a guy who might move in to get some snaps at guard, I’d think it would be Rogers.

As far as linebacker, De’Jon Harris probably knows mike better than weakside. You put him as the backup to Brooks in preseason with Dwayne Eugene working as the backup at mike. They are similar positions, but with different keys. When Dre Greenlaw went down, they moved De’Jon out to weakside, but he struggled as far as picking up things. Not easy to make that move after practicing at that position. But, you look at next year, and the thought was to put De’Jon at mike because Brooks is going to be gone and that will probably be his position. They did work De’Jon some at weakside, but it probably wasn’t enough for him to be comfortable.

I think De’Jon will get more snaps at weakside going forward the rest of this season. I would bet he gets plenty of reps over the next two weeks there.

Capps and Agim both have had issues as far as playing the right gaps inside. I do think everyone at tackle was overmatched by gthe Auburn guards. Smith and Kozan are terrific players, perhaps two of the better guards in the SEC. Those inside matchups were the worst for Arkansas all season. Again, when I watched on isolation with my field glasses, those guards were mauling the Hogs inside. Did Arkansas have its best players possible against them? Probably so. Ledbetter has been a good player. He struggled against both of those guys. So did Taiwan. And, the center was able to do damage, too. Those three are going to be good against everyone Auburn faces this year.

We don’t notice guards and center play very much when we watch a game, unless they are beaten. I doubt many focus on the guard play, until it’s a problem. I didn’t realize Brandon Burslworth was such a terrific player in his sophomore year until Rockey Felker pointed it out to me. When I focused my field glasses on him, then it was clear what Rockey was talking about.

Most of us see the tackle play. It’s on the outside. But we don’t see the guards until they pull or they make a mistake. Then we see it. But we don’t see much when they are dominating. We follow the ball. I doubt many watched what Tretola and Ragnow did at guard last year. Both were very good.

Aloha Clay,

The five man front was in reference to the Auburn game. I didn’t notice any adjustments to stop the run. To a tune of 500+ yards.


Not asking for perfect. Asking for “not broken.” The run defense is completely broken. Completely. The pass protection is broken.

Appears to me that players have not been put in the right positions, and that’s why they look so bad. I’d say the coaching staff didn’t recognize problems and because of that didn’t allocate talent to address those problems.

Against Auburn, either the defense didn’t know what to do, or it didn’t try. Neither option is good.

Gosh, Clay. This will end up the worst run defense - by far, not even close - that Arkansas has had in recorded history. It’s so much of a downside outlier, it’s astonishing. Not just worst ever, but redefined bad in ways we never imagined. Arkansas has had modest talent vs. tough schedules before. That’s NOT it. This is a disaster of planning and preparation. If they do anything right the rest of the way, I’ll be impressed.

That’s all I want. Not perfect. Competent. Basically competent. Wow. That doesn’t feel good at all.

Without repair, what run yardage will LSU and Fournett (sp?) generate against us? I bet he is looking forward to our game for his Heisman chances–400 yds possible?

It’s important to note that lack of speed can come from one of two ways: the first is physical, the second is mental. What I see a lot of is hesitation and being out of position. That’s mental. Brooks Ellis said it best: It is all about people doing their jobs. It’s as simple as that.

Arkansas is allowing three rushing touchdowns per game this season. Stats are incomplete, but best I can tell, the only other team at Arkansas that gave up three per game was the absolutely horribly coached 1952 team.

Only two other Arkansas defenses ever allowed two rush TDs per game, and the 2015 Hogs came within a single touchdown of reaching that level.

The 2016 Razorbacks are giving up 6.4 ypc, and in stats dating to 1948, no other Arkansas team allowed even 5 ypc. Previous worst was 4.7, in Bielema’s first season. So he’ll own the two worst by far.

Meanwhile, Bielema’s defenses also have been worse on pass defense than any other full-time head coach Arkansas’s had. By any measure.

feels like we have been set back 100 years. please dont hire another ad or hc from big10

is how was everyone so wrong about this team especially the OL and Defense. All the preseason hype was how good and deep we were on DL. We all remember the video of the weight lifting exhibition in RRS. We’ve all seen the before and after photos from Herbert’s program. Now here we are at same ole place after totally getting blown out by AL, TAM and AUB. Once again we are too small, too slow, too thin in depth, too weak and an overall lack of SEC talent. I don’t know what the answer is other than recruiting and if this coaching staff can’t get the talent then we need to get a staff that can. Don’t take this wrong way but I have lived in more than half of the southern states and I can see why AR has trouble recruiting SEC big time talent. NW AR is a beautiful and great place to live and visit but I don’t think your average SEC athlete from FL, AL, MS or LA can appreciate that. The demographics of NW AR are nothing like what most recruits are used to. I know we have the facilities to equal any program so either this is the issue or there is an issue with the recruiters(aka the coaches). I’m just tired as are most on here of always having to wait til next year. We all felt this could be a 9-10 win season. The team I saw play AUB would have a hard time with the Arkansas Tech Wonderboys. I just don’t get it.

Great post - yes, I’m still waiting for someone to explain how this defense with 9 returning starters has gone from bad to historically, off the charts bad?

That IS the answer… we consistently rank 10-12 in the SEC in the recruiting rankings using the guise of “UNCOMMON” to justify/legitimize our LACK of recruiting.

I asked Robb Smith why he expected better defense with the same players. He cited experience and the change with Ledbetter and Johnson taking the inside positions. They can do things against certain teams with more quickness inside, but they were not effective against Auburn’s power blockers. Certainly, losing Dre Greenlaw and Kevin Richardson without any help from DJ Dean. But it’s been nothing but inadequate play from the safeties. They have tackled decent only against Ole Miss of the better teams and there were misses in that game, too.

I do not expect perfect play. I expect perfect effort which just hasn’t been there. The last 2 seasons the Hog’s progressed in each game, especially after the Bama games. This season 2 steps forward, 3 steps back. Not the same feelng. The last 2 years by the last 3 games of the season the Hogs were a well oiled machine and playing like one of the best teams in college football. Nobody wanted anything to do with them. This season while the record has a chance to be better, time is running out to becoming that same well oiled machine. Seems the team has become soft , especially in the trenches & with the coaching staff

I don’t blame a lack of practice on the poor tackling. I blame a lack of practice on the coaches not knowing which players can tackle and which ones can’t. There is no excuse. Half way in to the season and we are still putting players on the field who can’t tackle. All on coaching at this point.