State of the Hogs: Too Early?

It may be too early to pass judgment on this Arkansas football team. But there are some reasons to think Arkansas stock is on the rise.

To borrow a stock market phrase, are you buying or selling after watching Arkansas blast Tennessee Tech, 44-3, in the season opener? Was it about like you expected? Better? Worse?

In an informal poll at HawgsIllustrated.com, it's clear that most think it was either about like expected or the opposition was too low to pass judgment.

There were at least two big positives, though. Anthony Leon has a chance to help at weakside linebacker and Alex Tejada has improved his leg strength on kickoffs.

There have also been hints in practice that punter Dylan Breeding -- there were no UA punts in the opener -- has improved in a big way. His hang time has consistently been in the 4.0-second range. That's SEC hang time. He's more flexible, stronger and sound in his mechanics.

Tennessee Tech's passing game was so poor that it's probably good to wait another week or two to see how much the UA secondary has improved, but it looked better.

We don't have to pass judgment on the Arkansas offense. Bobby Petrino, proving that his standards are off the charts high, didn't like the running game or the technique in several areas of the offense. He didn't like the way some of the running backs carried the ball, noting in his Monday media briefing that Dennis Johnson saw his carries end when he toted the ball like a loaf of bread in his long run.

Offensive assistants Garrick McGee (quarterbacks) and Chris Klenakis (line) both were critical of the blocking in the run game. The offensive line got some extra work on the blocking sled after practice Tuesday, although Klenakis insisted afterwards that it was more of a normal day than any kind of reaction to the first game.

"That's just the way we work," he said. "We are going to keep working, too. That's how you get better. We have high standards and we aren't where we want to be yet."

Offensive tackle DeMarcus Love said the running game would have been even worse except for some standout moves from the running backs.

"We weren't very clean in our blocking," Love said. "We can thank the running backs for getting what we did get. They made something out of it. We have good backs.

"The good news is that this is college football and we have another game pretty quickly. We get to get back out there this week and see if we can do better. We think we can do better in the running game."

There was one nice offensive statistic. Again, there's not enough data to pass judgment, but the third down conversions saw a jump over the early part of the last two seasons. The Hogs were five of eight for 62.5 percent. That's second in the SEC after one week, just behind Alabama's 7 of 11 for 63.6.

"We worked very hard on third down conversions," Petrino said. "That's one thing we really wanted to improve. We put in a lot of work there in the preseason."

You saw it every day in practice. The stakes were on the sideline and the downmarker was set at three for a lot of snaps.

Some of the problem in the run game came from the looks provided by Tennessee Tech's defense. Most of the time, there were eight in the box. Few will play the Hogs that way this year, or see Joe Adams and D. J. Williams run wild. The Golden Eagles never took away the first option, the easy passes over the middle. Ryan Mallett can and will hit 21 of 24 in those situations most of the year.

The voters in the national polls didn't find fault with anything the Hogs did in the opener. They got a little bump forward from both the writers and the coaches. And I'm guessing that none of those voters had ever heard about Anthony Leon.

I've seen enough to think they might before this season's over and that Arkansas stock is on the rise.

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