State of the Hogs: Behind Enemy Lines

Offensive line play may hold the key to the outcome when Arkansas opens SEC play at Georgia.





Sometimes it's best to go behind enemy lines for a perspective on a big game. It's even better when you can get a coach on the scene to provide thoughts. What are they saying about the Arkansas-Georgia football game in Athens, Ga.? Richard Bell is highly qualified to fill that role.

First, he's a native Arky. He was a standout for Wilson Matthews at Little Rock High School, then served as one of the captains on the first Frank Broyles team at Arkansas. He's in the UA Sports Hall of Honor, inducted last fall.

Second, he's a career coach. Actually, he's in his second career. After taking a few years off to write a coaching manual, Bell returned to football this year, taking a job as defensive coordinator at Prince Avenue Christian School in Athens. This after 42 years in college football, including a stint as head coach at South Carolina and many years as defensive coordinator at Georgia and Air Force.

Bell married into a family of Georgia fans. He hears about the Bulldogs almost daily. Obviously, the Bulldogs are the topic daily in Athens. He's aware of most everything Georgia.

Bell is also in tune with things at Arkansas. He is close with UA running backs coach Tim Horton. They worked together at Air Force.

"I'm counting on Tim to get me two (tickets)," Bell said. "I've been in contact with Tim via text this week. I think I'm good. Our Saturday morning staff meeting should be done around 10:30 and then I'm headed for the stadium."

The bottom line, Bell thinks it will be a "heckuva game. There are so many big implications for both teams. For Arkansas, it would be a huge feather to put in the cap to get an SEC road win. I know that's a tall order. It would be a huge step towards an outstanding season."

The "implications" for Georgia are multiple. There is starting to be a little pressure on UGA coach Mark Richt. He doesn't need an 0-2 SEC start or a home loss. Georgia fans expect a victory over Arkansas.

"I believe Georgia has a good team," Bell said. "They have solid players. I just think they ran into a very good South Carolina team, maybe better than we first thought. I think that running back is pretty special. That's what last week came down to, Georgia not being able to get him on the ground. He had a tremendous day."

Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray, redshirt freshman, was kept under wraps in his first SEC road game. Without much of a threat of a passing game, the Bulldogs couldn't run it.

"That's what I saw," Bell said. "They just didn't have much of a run game at Carolina. Can they run it this week? That's the question. I'm not sure they want to do a whole lot with that young quarterback, but they might give him more this week. He sure looked like he has some poise.

"The talk here in town has been about the Georgia offensive line. They have a couple of guys beat up. Are those guys back this week and healthy? If they get ‘em all healthy, they think they will be able to run it. That's a veteran group. A lot of times it comes down to what those O-linemen can do in the running game. I believe that will hold the key for both teams."

The other key is A. J. Green, still waiting word on an appeal to his suspension. The NCAA has promised to finish with the appeal by Friday.

"The word on the street here is that he's going to get his appeal approved and be able to play," Bell said. "But I don't know if there is anything to that. Might be just what Georgia fans are hoping happens. There likely isn't anything to that.

"But he's a really good player. He's worth four or five catches a game and I mean clutch plays."

Bell wouldn't make a pick. He's a fan of Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett. Quarterback play on the road in the SEC is hard to get. If Mallett performs at a high level, that might be the trump card for the Hogs.

"He's a talent," Bell said. "I think it will be a lot like last week's Georgia-Carolina game, two good teams going at it. It looks like Arkansas has a good team. I believe Georgia is good, too."

Still, it will probably come down to the team that can best come up with a running game. Bell wasn't talking about piling up 250 yards, just enough to keep the pass rush honest. Like I said, he's an old coach, with training from Wilson Matthews. You wouldn't expect his analysis to be any different.




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