What is wrong with the defense?

Football players look bad when they fail. Do they fail because they are untalented? Or undisciplined? Or have the wrong attitude? Or are they being asked to do things they cannot do?

Arkansas returned most of its starters from a 2015 defense that fell completely down only once - giving up 51 points to Mississippi State. That defense kept games in reach; don’t be misled by the two overtime games. Pass defense was a sore spot, and they gave up a worrisome number of rushing touchdowns.

Nevertheless, we had every reason to expect improvement in 2016, and instead the results have been deteriorating at a disturbing rate. It’s as though Arkansas has to overcompensate, leaving some aspect of the game wide open.

Some FBS rankings for you:

  1. Team passing efficiency defense
  2. Passing defense S&P+
  3. Rushing defense (conventional)
  4. Team tackles for losses
  5. Passing downs defensive S&P+
  6. Standard downs defensive S&P+
  7. IsoPPP+ (a measure of explosive plays allowed)
  8. Third down conversion % defense
  9. Rushing defense S&P+

The conventional rushing defense includes sacks as running plays. If you extract sacks, Arkansas is giving up 6.7 yards per carry on the ground. I’ve been watching Arkansas football statistics for more than 30 years and have records going back to the 1940s. I don’t believe that any past Razorback football team, ever, was that bad at the midpoint of any season. And certainly not at the end. That 6.7 figure is - by far - worst in FBS right now. And that stat is much worse in the most important games.

Run defense looks awful because of the TCU, Texas A&M and Alabama games. Excluding sacks, even Alcorn State had a better running day than you’d like to see. The Hogs have given up 14 rushing touchdowns, 13 against La Tech, TCU, aTm and Bama.

Players are going to look bad when everything is falling apart. How much is talent, and how much of the problem is due to what happened in planning and preparation?

I certainly don’t know the cause(s) but if someone figures it out, please let the coaching staff know. They seem to be struggling with the question themselves. CBB even indicated yesterday that he has a defensive background and will intervene if necessary ( seems like we are already to that point).

I know the defense has been bad. But some of the problems we have are no different than just about every other team. The rules are set up to favor the offense. Arkansas, with an o-line that most think is bad, scored 30 points and had over 400 yds of offense against one of the best defenses in the nation. I know the last score happened against back-ups, but still, 24 points used to be a lot of points. Arkansas’ defense (and everyone else’s) is much better when facing teams that aren’t multi-dimensional. Arkansas has faced AL, TA&M, and TCU, three very good offensive teams. Our defense will likely get better the last half of the season because some of the offenses won’t be as good. It won’t get any better against OM, and AU looks like they’re rolling on offense now too.

It looks to me like teams are trying to avoid running at the interior of Arkansas’ defensive line - which is probably the strongest point of the defense - and instead focusing on attacking the linebackers and defensive backs with sweeps, end-arounds, tosses, etc.

The secondary tackling has been poor. The angles taken by the safeties have been really bad. That was a problem last year, too.

This is a good topic, and something I had been thinking about for the last couple of weeks. I have not done the research, and don’t have time to do it now; but I’m convinced that offenses are averaging more yards, points and yards per play across college football than at any time in the past. Conversely, defenses are accordingly performing at the opposite end of the spectrum.

Which begs the question - are we in a cycle where the offensive schemes are just that far ahead of the defensive schemes? We’ve seen times like that in the past (In the late sixties and early 70’s, the Wishbone offense ran wild); but, eventually, defenses make adjustments and bring those offenses back down to earth.

Or, is it the rules - and how they are enforced - that is the issue? The way holding (unless you virtually tackle the defensive player) is almost allowed; the high frequency of pass interference penalties; targeting penalties on WR and QB’s . . . that is the primary factor?

When #1 Alabama is giving up over 400 yards passing and 30+ points in multiple SEC games - yet winning those games - it’s a new day.

I know most fans prefer this type of action and scoring to 14-10 games. And, I’ll admit a 41-38 game can be very entertaining. But, for me, it’s kind of like eating only dessert; it sounds good in concept, when you see a table full of goodies in front of you. But over the long haul, you long for some mean, potatoes and green beans. I find myself in that position. I’d really like to see defenses assert themselves again, at least more than they have been the last few years. I just think it makes for a more enjoyable game when everyone is not able to pass for 400 yards, or rush for 200. Those things used to mean something; now, they are common.

Not sure what the answer is.

I don’t think it’s so much a rules problem. Some recent rules have benefitted the defense, especially the one that allows the defense to substitute players when the offense does. I think what has changed the game more than anything is the realization that combining spread and tempo will wear down the players on their heels more than the ones on their toes. I don’t know what can reverse that.

I think that more of the best athletes are playing offense. That starts in high school. I do not think the best big athletes are playing defensive line. They are playing in the offensive line. The best skilled athletes are playing wide receiver, not defensive back. The high school coaches are offensive coaches. They take the best players for the offensive side of the ball. In the past, you needed one really good receiver, maybe two. There were skilled athletes playing corner and safety. Now, they might play both ways, but they are for sure playing offense first. If you are playing four wide receivers on one play, you sure want to have four good wide receivers. And, I will tell you that when a skilled, fast player comes out for football, he’s asking to play wide receiver, not defensive back. That is happening in the eighth, ninth and 10th grades.

All that makes perfect sense, if you were comparing yards given up this year, to say yards given up 10 or 20 years ago. But back the original posters point, he wasn’t comparing year to year, but us to other FBS teams this year. We have worse numbers than most of the other FBS teams, who are facing the exact same facts. I was shocked reading those stats (not how many yards, etc. that we are giving up, but how that compared to the other FBS schools.)

I randomly chose the 2000 football season to compare with 2015.

Average plays per game:
2000 - 70.9
2015 - 71.5
2016 - 72.1

Average yards per play:
2000 - 5.2
2015 - 5.8
2016 - 5.9

Average touchdowns per game:
2000 - 3.3
2015 - 3.5
2016 - 3.7

Average plays per touchdown:
2000 - 21.3
2015 - 20.5
2016 - 19.4

The comparisons with 2016-to-date stats might be spurious, as we have only a half-season’s results, and most conference games fall in the second half.

I looked at the tackle chart to see who was making the plays in Saturday night’s game. Brooks Ellis led with eight tackles. Dre Greenlaw was out after the first two series, but had two tackles in that short span. That’s the same as Deatrich Wise had for the entire game. Taiwan Johnson, Brandon Lewis, Jeremiah Ledbetter and Austin Capps also had two tackles. Lewis has not played a lot, but he’s been productive when on the field. He has 8 tackles in just four games.


Arkansas returned most of its starters from a 2015 defense that fell completely down only once - giving up 51 points to Mississippi State. …

Nevertheless, we had every reason to expect improvement in 2016, and instead the results have been deteriorating at a disturbing rate.
[/quote]Unless there’s a virus on the team, this is on the coaches.

The going south since last year, with veterans, is more than disturbing; something is broken.

I looked at the tackle chart for Alabama. Three of their top four tacklers were linebackers, even though we passed the ball far more than we ran. Our tackle chart was dominated by defensive backs, even though Bama ran more than it passed.

Bama’s scheme doesn’t ask the defensive line to make a lot of stops, mainly to mess up the works. It had me thinking. The Tide plays a 3-4. That means a linebacker is involved where Arkansas has an end. Back when the Hogs’ D was pretty good in 2014, the rush end was heavily involved, being among the leading tacklers and playmakers.

Arkansas is getting very little production from the rush end position. It was a major weakness last season and has not improved at all.

If you look at the official NCAA stats, the Hogs are in the middle of the SEC in Total Defense. Who’s last? Ole Miss, the Land Sharts.

College football gives offenses an advantage, and the Hogs have played some very good offenses. But, on defense, they seem to lack one or two players that make exceptional plays. Bama has that, and most NC contenders do. Perhaps in the second half of the season we’ll see some players emerge (Sosa, I’m looking at you).

They have offset this with an offense that is near the top in the SEC. This is not a National Championship team, but a darn good one.

We Hog fans have some great games coming up.


I was pretty shocked by how helpless our D looked against Bama, and I don’t have an informed opinion as to the weighting to put on our talent, the level of competition, and tactics. Not saying that we don’t have problems, but one caveat on our defensive rankings is the strength of offenses that we have faced. Four of the opposing offenses are in the top 17 in the nation in yards per play, and it doesn’t get any easier against Ole Miss.

That has to be one of the tougher slates for any defense in the nation. Of course, it can be argued that we have helped those offenses achieve those high yardages. Also, in the case of La Tech we didn’t have play against their starting QB, who is currently #12 in the nation in QBR. Still, when normalized for SOS, the defensive rankings would probably look better, though perhaps still distant from satisfactory. The Bama game was the first in which the defense looked like the weaker side of the ball to me.

TCU has a good offense, too. So that’s three good ones in the first six games, then four in seven games. I don’t think it’s like that the rest of the way, though.

http://gridironnow.com/arkansas-defense … or-change/

ESPN’s FPI actually ranks La Tech’s O as #15 as well.

This is what I see.

Have you noticed how everyone we play are blitzing on practically every down? Defenses do that when there is a young QB playing. Why? Because it works! aTm and Alabama sent the house after AA with extraordinary success.

What have we been doing on defense? Playing passive and hoping Hurts would throw a interception. Very little pressure was ever put on him during 4 quarters of that game. When you are playing the #1 ranked team in the nation and they have a true freshman QB with very little experience, you’ve got to put lot’'s of pressure on him. Alabama did! Did you see what happened? They made us look like a junior high team.

Now don’t tell me we lack the same talent Alabama does. We’ve been defeating #1 ranked teams with our 3 stars for decades.

Our DC needs to take another look at the results of our last two losses and make some adjustments in his attack. We’ve got to get pressure on Kelly Saturday or else they will blow us out of the water. Now I like our coaches, but we can’t live with a defense like what we showed against aTm and Bama.

I didn’t expect to win those games, but we should have put up a much stronger fight than we did. I’m not blaming the kids, I’m blaming the DC. If we do the same things against Ole Miss, then there will be talk of a very HOT seat in Fayetteville.