clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Arkansas at Missouri: The Hogs' offense is and isn't what you think

New, 6 comments

Arkansas' offense indeed wants to lean on you and run the ball as much as possible. But watch the tight ends on third downs -- they're the key to converting on third down and keeping you on the field.

Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The Arkansas offense is and isn't what you think.

QB
Brandon Allen (6'2, 210, Jr.) (165-for-286, 1992 yards, 16 TD, 5 INT, 11 sacks, 6.4 yards/attempt; 24 carries, 71 yards, 2 TD)
Austin Allen (6'1, 210, RSFr.) (8-for-16, 153 yards, 1 INT, 2 sacks, 7.2 yards/attempt; 5 carries, 17 yards, 1 TD)

Yes, the Razorbacks want to run the ball as much as humanly possible; they run 73 percent of the time on standard downs, 15th in the country.

But there seems to be a bit of a compromise at work between Bret Bielema and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney. Chaney's previous job was as Derek Dooley's coordinator at Tennessee, calling passing downs heave after passing downs heave for Tyler Bray, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Justin Hunter. While the Hogs are as run-heavy as you would imagine when they're on schedule, they run just 30.5 percent of the time, 76th in the country, on passing downs. This isn't a "forfeit when you fall behind schedule" offense. Chaney asks Brandon Allen to make plays, and Allen has made just enough for the offense to be successful.

Allen's not a scary quarterback: he's completing 58 percent of his passes, averaging under 6.5 yards per pass attempt, etc. And Missouri's increasingly fierce pass rush could have plenty of success on second- or third-and-long. But Allen is really good at finding either of a pair of tight ends on these downs, and it bears mentioning that Arkansas ranks 21st in passing downs sack rate. Anybody might be vulnerable against Missouri -- Tennessee's Joshua Dobbs hadn't taken a sack in three games before taking six on Saturday -- but Allen might be able to make some plays.

That is, Allen might make some plays if he plays. He was injured against Ole Miss, and his backup/brother Austin took some snaps and was perfectly competent. Early word is that Arkansas won't know whether Allen plays until later in the week.

RB
Jonathan Williams (6'0, 223, Jr.) (175 carries, 1,013 yards, 5.8 yards/carry, 11 TD; 15 targets, 10 catches, 42 yards, 2.8 yards/target, 1 TD)
Alex Collins (5'11, 215, So.) (173 carries, 965 yards, 5.6 yards/carry, 12 TD; 3 targets, 3 catches, 9 yards, 3.0 yards/target)

FB
Kody Walker (6'2, 250, Jr.) (30 carries, 149 yards, 5.0 yards/carry, 1 TD; 6 targets, 3 catches, 15 yards, 2.5 yards/target)
Patrick Arinze (5'10, 257, Sr.) (4 targets, 3 catches, 19 yards, 4.8 yards/target)

The names here probably seem familiar, and there's a reason for that. Jonathan Williams was a Mizzou commit for a while a few years ago before flipping, and Kody Walker is from Jefferson City. These are big boys, and they're having some success.

As strange as this may sound, Arkansas doesn't actually run the ball as well as you probably think. The Hogs are good at it, to be sure, but they're not elite. They rank 17th in Rushing S&P+, 55th in Adj. Line Yards, and only 69th in Power Success Rate. They bank on you getting tired and giving up bigger creases later in games, but Missouri's depth up front could hold up. Passing downs success is key, though. If Arkansas is able to find a tight end or Keon Hatcher on third-and-long and extend a drive, fatigue could end up being an issue even for a deep front.

WR
Keon Hatcher (6'2, 210, Jr.) (66 targets, 36 catches, 493 yards, 7.5 yards/target, 4 TD)
Jared Cornelius (5'11, 195, Fr.) (24 targets, 13 catches, 150 yards, 5.2 yards/target)
Drew Morgan (6'0, 192, So.) (14 targets, 8 catches, 148 yards, 10.6 yards/target, 1 TD)

WR
Demetrius Wilson (6'2, 198, Sr.) (29 targets, 13 catches, 150 yards, 5.2 yards/target)
Cody Hollister (6'4, 207, So.) (21 targets, 13 catches, 137 yards, 6.5 yards/target)

TE
Hunter Henry (6'5, 250, So.) (49 targets, 32 catches, 447 yards, 9.1 yards/target, 2 TD)
Alex Voelzke (6'5, 256, Jr.) (1 target, 0 catches)

Obviously we'll dive further into standard downs vs. passing downs in tomorrow's game preview, but one other passing downs note: on passing downs, wideouts Keon Hatcher, Demetrius Wilson, and Jared Cornelius have combined to catch just 31 of 65 passes for 375, 5.8 yards per target. But tight ends Hunter Henry and A.J. Derby have caught 28 of 38 passes for 443 yards (11.7). They are a unique weapon, and if you remember the occasional success Vanderbilt had in extending drives with the tight end, that's reason for pause.

Derby, a converted quarterback, is also dealing with an injury, and it might be telling that he wasn't listed on the depth chart above. (Brandon Allen, on the other hand, was.) Bielema told media that there's a chance he still plays. We'll see. If he does, there's a chance he moves back to quarterback if Allen isn't available.

Either way they still have Henry. I feel confident that a quickly improving set of Missouri cornerbacks can handle Hatcher, Wilson, etc., but the presence of the tight end is unique. And Chaney is creative in the way he gets the tight end out of bunched formations. They'll catch you napping if you nap.

LT
Dan Skipper (6'10, 326, So.) (19 career starts)
Cameron Jefferson (6'6, 307, Sr.)

LG
Sebastian Tretola (6'5, 350, Jr.) (9 career starts)
Luke Charpentier (6'3, 312, Sr.) (3 career starts)

C
Mitch Smothers (6'3, 315, Jr.) (19 career starts)
Frank Ragnow (6'5, 300, Fr.)

RG
Denver Kirkland (6'5, 337, So.) (19 career starts)
Austin Beck (6'7, 318, Jr.)

RT
Brey Cook (6'7, 314, Sr.) (28 career starts)
Brian Wallace (6'6, 322, Fr.)

The line is bigger than it is good, but it's still good, and it's still a unique weapon Missouri hasn't dealt with much this year. The 10 players above average 6'6, 320, and the starters average 6'6, 328. If you can't get the Hogs off of the field on third down, they'll start to find more success leaning on you later on.