November 18, 2018

There is Work To Do: A Mid-Year Review

Bret Bielema Pre-Game vs. Ole MissThere is work to do. Praise be to the good Lord above that we have 2 weeks to do it. The first 8 weeks of Arkansas’ season can be accurately summed up by two words: Roller Coaster.

From the high of beating TCU on the road to the lowest of lows on the plains of Auburn, Razorback fans have endured emotional torture.

It’s as if we have endured our normal season of extreme jubilation/gut-wrenching disgust in a matter of 8 games. The good news is this: there are four more games to play. However, the bad news is this: there are four more games to play.

The Razorback football team has been all over the proverbial map this season. We’ve seen moments of brilliance and moments of wretchedness. Yet, despite all we have seen, the Hogs stand at 5-3. This bye week could’ve come at a better time (last week), but we will take one this week nonetheless.

It provides the Hogs a much needed breather as well as an opportunity to do some soul searching; perhaps a lot of soul searching. It also provides us at RBN the opportunity to stop and evaluate the season to date.

So grab some coffee, put on some yacht rock, and find your most comfortable chair.  Welcome to the mid-season review.

Offense

The offensive line is bad. There I said it. It’s out there. Don’t believe me?  Allow me to enlighten you.

This offensive line has paved the way for the 79th best rushing attack in the country (10th in the SEC). The Hogs average 3.97 yards per rush and have amassed 11 touchdowns on the ground. In addition, the Hogs are averaging 160 yards per game on the ground. But don’t be misled. They only average 104 yards per game and 2.4 yards per rush in the SEC.

Clearly, when the competition gets better, the run game gets stagnate (and this is supposed to be our bread and butter!). However, this is only half of the story.

Kurt Anderson Dan Skipper Frank Ragnow (Photo by Ben Goff WholeHogSports.com)Would you believe that this offensive line has allowed Austin Allen to be sacked 21 times this season? In Bielema’ s worst season at Arkansas (2013) his offensive line only allowed 14 sacks. In the year we would all like to forget under John L. Smith (2012), they only allowed 18 sacks the entire season. Through 8 games this season, this offensive line has allowed 21.

That is embarrassing for the unit that is supposed to be the foundation of this team. If it weren’t for Allen and his group of mighty fines, the wide outs, this team might be a 2-win team at best.

Speaking of AA, how good has this guy been? The number of times he has been hit and found himself on the ground are nearly unfathomable. Yet, despite knowing how each drop back will end, Allen has somehow completed 62.2% of his passes.

Additionally, Allen averages 8.11 yards per attempt and 13.1 yards per completion. Those are insane numbers given his offensive line. 8 games into the season, Allen leads all passers in the SEC with 18 touchdowns. Yes, some of those have come out of necessity due to lack of a run game, but still, those numbers are eye-popping if you know anything about this Arkansas football team. Can you imagine what this guy would look like with last year’s o-line? Even with Vanderbilt’s o-line (only semi-serious here)?

If AA keeps up the good work and doesn’t get a limb ripped off, I can’t imagine him not being voted the unanimous first team All-SEC quarterback.

In terms of the offense as a whole, I give them a C grade. The bottom line is that they’ve scored enough points to win 5 games. In the coming weeks, there are several areas of concern/opportunities to improve. For starters, the razorback O must get better on third down. Currently, the unit is ranked 79th nationally converting only 38% of their third downs.

While nearly owning every opponent in time of possession (ranking 4th nationally), the Hogs have not had quality possessions. In order for this team to be successful, the offense must stay on the field (multiple first downs) and wear down opponents.

In contrast, the Razorbacks have been relatively successful in the red zone. In 37 trips to the critical area, the Hogs have come away with 30 scores (9 rush, 15 pass, and 6 field goals). It would be nice to turn those FGs into TDs moving forward, but I won’t complain about an 81% clip.

All in All, this offense, while riddled with its bumps and blemishes, has been adequate. They have done what it takes to win 5 games and if the defense could stop someone, it might have been more.

Defense

Excuse me while I YACK! What a disappointment this unit has been and I don’t feel as if I am alone in this disappointment. Multiple media outlets and pundits, in addition to the Arkansas coaching staff, were lauding this defense in the pre-season as experienced and better than ever. They were full of crap.

Robb SmithThrough 8 games, this defense ranks 84th nationally in total defense giving up an average of 428 yards per game. They rank 111th in the nation against the run allowing 222 yards per game. They fair somewhat better against an air attack only allowing 206 yards per game which is good enough to be ranked 36th nationally. These stats, while alarming, aren’t altogether appalling. However, there is one stat that shocks.

Arkansas is one of the worst teams in the country when it comes to giving up the big play. They can give up a big play like no one else. It’s been stated before, but the Hogs have given up 45 plays of 20+ yards, 26 plays of 30+ yards, 17 plays of 40+ yards, and 10 plays of 50+ yards. This is appalling. This is sickening.

This lights a fire not only under the seats of fans, but DC Robb Smith as well. If this does not improve, his seat will get so hot he can’t sit down. These numbers are simply “unasseptable” in the SEC. We can only hope that this changes in the last four games.

Another area of concern for this defense has to be third down. Arkansas ranks 123rd nationally at getting off the field on third down. In this day and age, given the current landscape and offensive trends, a team cannot afford to leave their defense on the field. The amount of time a defense is on the field is directly proportional to the success of that defense late in the game. If the Hogs need a stop late in the fourth quarter, the odds aren’t in their favor. If we are going to right the ship in the coming weeks, this issue has to improve.

To be fair, the loss of Dre Greenlaw was a blow to this defense. Greenlaw was very sound in his assignments and a great tackler. Yet, one would assume that in Year 4 of the Bielema era there would be quality talent waiting the wings. This is simply not the case.

One constant under CBB has been an empty cupboard when it comes to LB’s. During the last recruiting cycle, the staff showed promise by bringing in some solid linebacker talent. But those guys are not ready for SEC football. Due to the Greenlaw injury, “Scoota” Harris has been forced to contribute early, but he clearly would have benefitted from a year on the scout team and a role on special teams.

Why the lack of quality depth a LB? This is a mystery to me. Our current LBs are far too slow to play in the SEC. Brooks Ellis, bless his heart, needs to soak up these last 4 games. He may be mentally quick, but the man lacks the speed on the field to play mike linebacker in the SEC.

But this is textbook Arkansas under Bielema; undersized and slow at linebacker. As soon as this unit improves, so does the entire defense. Sadly, you don’t get faster during a bye week. I expect this unit to perform poorly the remainder of the year and into the future unless we get serious about our talent level at the position.

Adam McFain (Photo by Natasha Tucker 247Sports)Special Teams

Have the special teams been “special”? I suppose it depends on who you ask.

Cole Hedlund was given far too long of a leash. After repeated FG misses, he was replaced by Adam McFain. Since replacing Hedlund, McFain has been quite adequate showing off an impressive leg. So far, this seems to be a good change.

On kickoffs, McFain was replaced by Connor Limpert after the first couple of games. Unfortunately, Limpert didn’t help much. Through 8 games, Arkansas is ranked 91st nationally in kickoff return defense giving up a less than stellar 22.6 yards per return.  Eight touchbacks in 38 kickoffs for Limpert.

When you can’t get to ball into the end zone to begin with, 23 yard returns become trouble.  For example, consider the kickoff that was returned into Arkansas territory late in the TCU game. Had it not been for the gargantuan paw of Dan Skipper, we might be 4-4 right now.

All is not lost, however! Enter Toby Baker.

Baker has been outstanding. It’s been quite a while since Arkansas has had such a good punter. To date, Baker is averaging 41.7 yards per punt. He has been responsible for switching the field during vital moments in several games.  Enjoy Toby while he lasts!

Summary

At the end of the day this Arkansas team is 5-3 (1-3). It could be worse. In fact, it was very close to being much worse (what if we had lost to La Tech and TCU?). Nevertheless, here we sit, half relieved that we don’t have endure a loss this week and half sad that there isn’t a game. Many times, we forget to sit back and enjoy the season we so eagerly anticipate all year long.

The Razorbacks have four games left on the schedule. If you are asking this guy, I say they go 3-1 with a loss to LSU. Others may predict differently, but I have learned to Believe in Bielema especially down the stretch. Paw Paw Broyles once said “They remem-buh novem-buh”.

The Hogs have two weeks to heal and make this a November to Remember. Will they do it? Will they improve? Only time will tell. But one thing is most certain…there is work to do.

Comments

  1. Bert’s in over his head.
    Coordinator at 32, Head Coach at 36, SEC $4 mil man at 42. Of course he was sold on himself. He could do anything.
    Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. (That little quote is from Albert Einstein.)
    It’s year four folks. You can keep blaming John L. and BMFP and saying wait until 2018 if you want. But guess how this really ends.
    SEC Title? Failure to make the Liberty Bowl?

    • Bert will patch up the crack in the Liberty Bowl!

    • IHATESTUPIDFANS! says:

      Hey Goldhog! Guess what?

      We are the University of Arkansas! OMG REALLY? We will never compete in the SEC West against teams with MILLIONS more than us. We don’t have the recruiting base to EVER compete in the SEC West. We will get a few 10 win seasons here and there, but that is it. Accept it. Now go back into your idiot corner and keep telling yourself we are Alabama.

      You know what I like? Bowl Wins. I like going to Bowls and winning. We are Arkansas. ACCEPT IT. Once again, we are 5-3! 5-3 DUDE! IN THE TOUGHEST CONFERENCE IN AMERICA? What is MSU? 2-5? Vandy? Mother FREAKING KENTUCKY? Unbelievable. Just unbelievable our fanbase is. We are not entitled to ANYTHING just because we are in the SEC.

  2. I fear the problems with this team are not ones that can be “fixed” by coaching. The problem is simply a lack of “talent” on this team. In our three losses our players were overmatched by bigger better stronger faster players, attributes that cannot be coached. Our recruiting classes during the Bielema era have been rated near the bottom of the conference. Even if the Hogs overachieve they cannot hope to surpass those programs that win the recruiting race year after year.

    It wouldn’t bother me if Bielema quit or was fired this week, but I can’t name another coach who I think could come here and out-coach and out-recruit AL, aTm, LSU, TN, FL, GA. Arkansas is a third-rate university with a second-rate athletic program; we’re already overachieving.

    • The first thing you have to do at a place like Arkansas is build a scheme to match your best players. BMFP got a dual threat QB and the play book was there to meet him. Robb Smith was a success with his triangle because he had the players to run it. It has failed since. It’s not Xs and Os, it’s Jimmys and Joes.
      The weirdest thing Bert has done is refuse to recruit or play back ups. This ironman thing is really working against him. Rafe Peavy being only the latest example, but it’s everywhere throughout the program.
      Arkansas is a candidate for the HUNH. That is the great equalizer in college football today. Alabama and LSU can play smash mouth because they have great players and because they have great defensive players in particular. Nutt tried it with an attacking defense but, today, a passing game is the easiest to develop.
      I like the pro-style if you have players to run it. Enos figured out pretty quickly time of possession was not going to win much in the West. You have to score points these days.
      Bert was sure he was going to win the SEC by beating Bama at their own game. Maybe after Saban retires.

      • I agree with all you’ve said, especially the part about Bert believing he could “beat Bama at their own game.” That has been exactly his plan. It’s just that he doesn’t have the hosses to pull it off. Also, as you’ve pointed out, he gets locked-in on a scheme and stays with it whether it works or not, rather than adapting the scheme to his players.

        But right now I don’t think he has the O-line to succeed with any scheme, nor the athletes on defense to stop the power games run by the better half of the SEC. To your point, last week Gus showed how a coach can adapt and evolve, based on the talent available, going from the HUNH to the power running game. Bert doesn’t seem that adaptable.

        One of the things Bert claimed upon arriving in Fayetteville was that his conservative style of play would be methodical and deliberate, resulting in fewer penalties and lost-yardage plays and limiting possessions for the opponent. That has not worked out well, as several games were lost because of penalties.

        I have written lots of comments supportive of Bielema, as I did for Brandon Allen, because I could see growth and progress from game to game. I don’t see that now nor in the near future, because I don’t see the “Jimmies and Joes” who could make it happen.

        • IHATESTUPIDFANS! says:

          LOL Stupid fans. I hate being a Razorback fan because of people like you. Arkansas…bottom line…let me repeat this…THE ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS WILL NEVER…NEVER…NEVER compete in the SEC West. Alabama is bigger, LSU is bigger, Texas A&M is bigger, Auburn is bigger, and hell Ole Miss is just about there. MSU is the only one that I would consider much smaller. Arkansas will never win the SEC West as long as Bama, LSU, A&M and Auburn are around. Get that through your head. We may win 10 games here and there, but we DON’T HAVE THE MONEY, THE RECRUITING BASE OR THE SIZE to COMPETE with those schools. What the hell does Bret do? You idiots, he gets us to BOWL games. What the hell more do you want than BOWL GAMES? Ask MSU, KENTUCKY, VANDERBILT AND EVEN MISSOURI NOW! They ARE IN THE DUMPSTER RIGHT NOW. But idiots like you want us to fire our coach, rebuild again for another 3 years, and then fire the next guy.

          Stop being idiots. We are 5-3. We have beaten TCU on the road and Ole Piss at home. We have lost to probably the best teams in the SEC West. We have beaten LSU the past 2 years (something that BOBBY DIDN’T DO…42-17 CHOKE WHEN WE COULD HAVE MADE THE CHAMPIONSHIP IN 2011!…who can forget the 2009 CHOKE?) We have also competed with Bama most years…Lets see for Bobby…one lucky game against Bama…and then BLOWOUT? BLOWOUT? BLOWOUT? Holy hell. And for Arkansas? Rebuilding Year BLOWOUT…then 1 POINT LOSS, LEADING AT BAMA and SCORING 30 on THEM! Guess WHAT BOBBY NEVER DID AGAINST BAMA? Score 30 POINTS…so DON’T BRING ME THE SHIT ABOUT HIS OFFENSE.

          AS FAR AS O-Line:

          We lost OUR 2 BETTER O-LINEMEN EARLY. THIS PUT US IN A BAD PLACE TO START OFF. THOSE 2 LEFT EARLY AND WAS UNEXPECTED. I GUARANTEE YOU…WE WILL ALLOW LESS THAN 12 SACKS NEXT YEAR. STOP BEING STUPID ABOUT THAT…WE WILL BE BETTER WHEN THAT GELS NEXT SEASON!

          THE DEFENSE? That IS A ROB SMITH PROBLEM. FIRE HIS ASS…BUT NOT BRET. F ROB! That IDIOT is the ONE WE NEED TO FIRE!

          I hate people like you guys lol. After Bama: “FIRE BRET!” After Ole Miss: “BRET IS AMAZING” and AFTER ONE BLOWOUT LOSS: “FIRE BRET!” Screw this fanbase…we, ONCE AGAIN, are NOT ALABAMA, NOT LSU, and NOT TAMU, AND NOT AUBURN. We ONCE AGAIN are 5-3 THIS YEAR. AT THIS TIME LAST YEAR? 3-4!? WTF!

          Done with my rant. Stop being idiots and telling me we need to fire Bret…unless you guys like being 3-9 for 2 years until the coach finally pulls off a 6-6 with wins over Vandy and MSU…IDIOTS!

          • LOL, i see your point, LOL! Just because we haven’t been competitive in the SEC YET, doesn’t mean we will NEVER…NEVER…NEVER compete for a conference championship. And that doesn’t mean SQUAT because BOWL GAMES. And it’s not BERT’S JOB to fire ROBB SMITH, or whatever, but he definitely should be FIRED!…FIRED…FIRED…FOR CAUSE, because, well, just because, by SOMEBODY! AND CAPS LOCK! And IDIOTS! LOL!

          • IHATESTUPIDFANS! says:

            Sigh…Delusional fans are delusional…

          • Haters gotta hate, I suppose.

          • You stole my line.

          • And, I actually kind of agree with Stupidfans. One of the best tricks on the noise machine when discussing Bert is to blame all of his mistakes on Arkansas’ status in the West. “He’s making progress but it really can’t be done at Arkansas.” Which is it? It’s so easy to transpose the issues until the final discussion has lost all meaning.
            1) Power Programs
            Alabama
            LSU
            Auburn and A&M
            Arkansas and Ole Miss
            Miss St.
            The pecking order in the West is a real factor when considering the items below.
            2) Recruiting/Coaching
            Saban was better than Dubose or Shula
            Freeze was better than Nutt
            Muschamp could recruit defense but didn’t know what an offensive player looked like.
            Recruiting Skills are enhanced at power programs or they can limit the advantage.
            3) Style of Play/Coaching
            Saban was better than Dubose or Shula
            Freeze was better than Nutt
            Sumlin was better than Sherman
            Petrino was better than Nutt
            Coaching Skills are enhanced at power program or they can limit the advantage
            4) Quarterback Play
            There is no single advantage larger than having a successful QB. Power teams can fail without one. Lower level teams can overcome large disadvantages with one.
            Bert’s recruiting is going the wrong direction and his style of play makes winning more difficult in the West. Hence the 8-20.
            We are honest because we love.

          • Well, yeah, but we have that idiocy thing goin’ on, so even when we agree with HATESSTUPID we’re still wrong! There are no therapies for that.

          • And the LIBERTY BOWL TROPHIES keep piling up. Arkansas REDSHIRTS LIBERTY BOWL TROPHIES!!!!!!!

      • I thought when it became apparent that Bert was not a game day coach that he must be a recruiter. Turns out he is really just a marketing major. He can spin any short coming or mistake. After all, we are 9-4 in the last 13 games. That’s two games better than last year and two games better than this year. And, two games better than next year.

        I guess after watching all this and, knowing we have years more to watch, I am realizing that I can accept mediocrity. It seems to be what everyone wants. It is so much easier and really almost as much fun if you don’t mind the occasional disaster or seeing a great little QB torn to shreds; fine Christian kids who never make a headline and milk and honey flowing in the boxes, suites, and clubs. What’s not to like?

        If Bert would just spare us the spin about how he’s going to get there eventually I’d be happier. BS has never been my strong suit even after they started calling it marketing.

        • I sincerely believe you about the BS intolerance. You’ve been consistent in that. But now you’re doing the right thing by accepting mediocrity. Of a Saturday, during your rehab, when you’ve neared the breaking point and find yourself screaming at the teevee machine, please recall the sanity prayer:

          Lord give me coffee to change the things I can
          And wine to accept the things I cannot.

          Roadhog

          • It’s a good thing we’ve had so many night games. I can’t watch Bert coach without at least two drinks. We have good kids. I don’t mind the games. Bert is even good for a laugh or two.
            It’s the noise machine that makes me crazy. Finally, now after the beat down, they are beginning to acknowledge that maybe after the buyout expires Jeff will take pity on us and move on.

          • Do you mean, like, THE NOISE MACHINE? I hear ya ’bout the drinks. I sure hope Arkansas voters approve medical pot next month. Any more games like last week’s and I’d need a bale of the stuff.

  3. hognaustin says:

    I’m tired of the excuses and “jolly old man” antics and anecdotes. CBB keeps telling us that we have a good if not great team and I haven’t see that yet. He is blind to the performance of our OL and continues to tout his Danish experiment- which has failed.

    He needs to tell Anderson “There needs to be immediate and profound improvement in the OL performance and protection or find another job.” And CBB needs to say the same thing to Smith.

    What scares me if I’ve heard all these same words and promises of getting better during the bye week down here in Austin – Charlie Strong said these exact same things 4 weeks ago after the Cal game and got pummeled by OSU 2 weeks later. I hope the same thing is not happening with the Hogs.

    Coaches need to get better play out of their players or they need to pack up and go coach at an FCS school.

  4. 相当不错,自愧不如!

  5. 三天不来手痒痒!

  6. 我只是来随便看看!