Why talent is not THE answer

In certain ways it would be much easier on all of us if talent was the only reason for the defensive performance against A&M, Alabama, and Auburn. We could just shut up and try to enjoy the remainder of the season, awaiting the all important February National Signing Day.

So is talent THE problem? Don’t think so. It is a problem but not the problem.

Scheme is a question. Why do we not have ends or linebackers with an outside shoulder beyond outer most blocker to one side? I heard an NFL team get excoriated over the weekend for that very issue, but somehow Smith’s defense can line up in a way that allows a blocker to crash down and prevent containment. We are making it too easy on opponents to block our containment. That is less about talent than scheme. IMHO

If you want to argue that our defense is merely picking its poison (which I think is maybe the most likely explanation) then I would argue that loss of containment is too deadly a poison to choose.

I would also argue that talent seems to be an excuse, not an explanation because of the scope of the yardage given up to Auburn. This was an al time record for rushing yardage. If talent were the issue, wouldn’t it follow that to yield such a record amount of yardage, the Arkansas talent would have to be among the lowest of any SEC team in history? We may not be at a good level of talent, but we are nowhere near historically low levels of talent.

We hear that our CB’s are not talented. Why then on national signing date this year, did we not have a single CB signed? We added one some while after the national signing date, but did not have a single corner signed prior.

That just doesn’t jibe with idea that the coaches thought we were in a talent shortage at corner, UNLESS they were making a strategic decision to try to skate by at corner because they were so talent deficient elsewhere. To me this is probably what happened.

But if that is the case, why redshirt the LB’s? We here that the LB’s are not up to speed. If these young guys are an improvement like many of us think, throw them out there. Let their instincts and improved quickness get us out of some of these defensive exposures.

In the end, talent may well be part of the equation for any credible explanation for the historic defensive weakness of this team. It may be that these coaches took some chances that could have worked out but didn’t because of injuries, bad scheduling, and low football IQ. (By the way, I think low football IQ is a prime suspect at a few positions). Maybe we have a good DC who is merely a victim of circumstances.

However, it isn’t just talent. Let’s acknowledge those circumstances. Meanwhile, could somebody explain why the person responsible for containment does not have a free outside shoulder?

I think it’s gap control defense. The linebackers are set three yards back, sometimes four. They are outside the guard in most cases. That should be enough for them to get to the gap on the outside of the end. In talking to linebackers (and David Bazzel is one, but not the only one), that is enough for your linebacker to scrape and play the gap outside the end. Then, you have a safety for the next gap, a corner for the next. Most every defense I see has a linebacker or a safety to set the outside edge. They have to get there. If you widen the end in a 4-3, that puts that gap too wide. The opening play of the Auburn offensive possession had the outside blockers crossing to create blocking angles in the outside gap. That has to be their edge. There is no end that is going to get there. No linebacker who is going to get there. When the blockers cross, they can’t allow that gap to happen. Step and blow that up. I saw two plays on the goal line where the end is outside the blocker. It was Tevin Beanum. He came inside to take a gap that is not his. It was a walk-in. He was outside the blocker but took himself out of the play by sticking his nose inside his gap. I get your frustration. I see the same things happen, but what I see is that it’s speed of the game. One wrong step and they don’t have the speed to overcome their false step.

Yeah, you coach them and it either gets done or it doesn’t get done. And that’s coaching. But at some point, someone on the defense has to disrupt something. You have to beat a block. Gap control is great, but whip someone somewhere. That’s talent. You whip someone, the coach looks great. So get better players and win some battles. Speed and quickness allows you to win some battles. Shed a block. Whip someone.

If you are getting blocked, you are always going to have problems. I recalled defensive improvement in the second half of the Alabama game. I asked what adjustments were made at halftime, Brooks Ellis told me the simplest adjustment. He said, “We got off blocks. We didn’t get blocked. We beat blocks.” That improves defensive play every time.

I can draw up schemes with the best of them. I can draw up 3/4 and I can draw up 4/3. If you want 3/4, you better find you a bunch of linebacker types. I don’t see a bunch in that category on this team. Maybe with the development of those four freshmen linebackers, maybe you’ll have that. But right now, I’d say a 4/3 is best for this personnel group.

As far as signing corners, that was a priority last season and it didn’t happen. It was a miss and we all said it at the time. They went down to the end with a cornerback and he ended up at Florida on the last day in a bit of a surprise, if I recall that right. There were others that were targeted, too, but that was one they thought they had.

As far as gap control, I do see some line games against passing teams. I saw it pay off three times against Ole Miss, including some sacks. It’s much harder to blitz an option team like Auburn. Now, I’d prefer more blitzes looking back on that game, perhaps some run blitzes, but it’s hard with read option. That’s an invitation for a big play. But there have been too many big plays already. I think what I saw in the second half of the Ole Miss game were quite a few stunts/blitzes by Dwayne Eugene and it produced pressure. I did see a blitz on third-and-10 in the Auburn game, but Sean White escaped it and scooted for a 12-yard gain.

I enjoy the discussion and don’t mind it at all. I think you bring up good things to discuss.

Great post and answer by Clay.

Good schemes and all are critical and well coached teams need discipline etc.

I believe we have a well coached team.

But in playing the best talent, it helps to have the best talent.

I have posted on this previously but in my view, we must take inventory of the Admin plan to recruit top SEC talent. We may find we have to put more resources into it than anyone else in the SEC in order to get talent others always seem to have.

Saban is a great coach. But many coaches would be considered great with that talent.

Arkansas can recruit SEC talent and has had some good seasons since joining the SEC.

But more times than not, we are not at the top of the SEC in talent and it shows,

We might not align correctly on D sometimes, but when we do we are getting schooled sometimes too, and that’s talent or lack thereof.

Can’t block, or get pushed around. Need bigger more physical talent.

Can’t get to the edge? Got to recruit speed.

Were Switzer, Johnson, Saban, Meyer, et all good because they got their guys to stand in right alignment all the time, or because they had the biggest and best speed talent blowing up anything in their way.

Despite some good seasons, we have watched Arkansas attemp to be a top SEC program without top SEC talent of more consistent bigs.

We need more talent and yes proper scheme.

If we are going to break this cycle we need the most comprehensive Admin recruiting plan and execution over a number of years - with an expectation and goal of winning titles.

I would turn your argument around 180 degrees. I think scheme is an issue, but not the issue. Talent is more of an issue.

You can’t take one game (as bad as it was) and say because we don’t have the worst talent of all time, the issue must be scheme. We have all seen games were one team got on a roll and just did amazing things. It happens. I remember my high school basketball team getting on a roll vs. Newport (sorry Dudley!) and killing them by 20 points or so (this was no shot clock, so a 20 point win was HUGE). We weren’t as good as Newport, not even close. It was just one of those days.

I don’t think we should be playing gap control and expecting our linebackers to be the heroes. We don’t have the talent at linebacker to do that. So is that a scheme issue or talent issue? Heck I don’t know. Both I guess.

Maybe you are right.

Maybe not.

Maybe it is a chicken and egg type thing.

All good responses.

It appears we are all kinda in the same zip code in our thinking though not exactly on the same block.

I mentioned football IQ earlier. That may be the common denominator. Their are lesser athletes who make plays just because they have what you often hear referred to as “good vision”. If you go back to previous games, there were numerous bad angle plays. No let me rephrase that to- numerous terrible angle plays. I thought then and believe now, that many of those bad angles were the product of low football IQ. Doesn’t mean any of those guys are dumb, just that they don’t intuitively understand the game.

Some of the guys I saw taking horrible angles are also responsible for containment gap control.

One other thing about scheme. When I mention scheme that is not to suggest it is always a faulty or defective scheme. In fact we have had bad schemes that were brilliant. The OC that Joe Ferguson loved so much was a good example- brillian but his play book was too thick and complicated for us to learn. Holtz had a genuine D guru in that Lindsey fellow. Turns out we didn’t benefit because his D was too complex. We looked flat footed and slow, but only because the assignments were too complex to be mastered by Hogs. I think BP had a DC that was similarly brilliant but too complex.

So I take you back to the alabama post game pressed where CBB said he wanted to know if our scheme was asking people to do things they were not physically capable of doing. I took that to possibly mean the scheme was asking too much, not that the scheme was half baked. Obviously if we had the talent of Bama that broadens your scheme options, so in that sense it is a talent issue. But it can als be argued that at Arkansas that scheme is misguided. To be honest that is my leaning regarding scheme problems.

Great dialogue and I agree with the bold in this post. This is a great thread lost in the posts full of biased griping. This post talks about real issues with rational thoughts.

I agree great dialogue, very thoughtful insight without the knee jerk reaction we have to read way too often. Good job guys. WPS

I’ve been worried about this as well. Ledbetter and Agim are disruptive and athletic but have had to do more Gap control plugging that they are not built for. Guards are getting into the 2nd level and Ellis isn’t fast enough to react. He is doing the best he can but Greenlaw covered up some of his mistakes and vice versa.

I think Clay brought up a great point. Our defense probably needs to take more risks, even to the point of giving up big plays when it doesn’t work. Why? Because we are giving up big plays anyway. If you are trying to be sound and avoid giving up big plays, and you’re giving up big plays anyway, there’s not much left but to take some chances. Thats overall philosophy in any sport. Not scheme specific.