State of the Hogs: Familiarity

Arkansas coaches and players will see things they recognize when UTEP takes the field. It may help the Hogs in certain situations, but there is a huge respect factor from the UA staff with UTEP's Mike Price.

When you watch Texas-El Paso on Saturday night, imagine what his stuff would look like at Alabama. Or, better yet, Arkansas.

What you might see is what Arkansas looks like, especially in the play-action passing scheme that makes a Bobby Petrino offense so difficult to stop when the running game is getting chunks. Petrino learned some of that from Mike Price, the UTEP coach.

Price is a veteran, a coach's coach. He has done it at places that are difficult. He won the Rose Bowl at Washington State, the reason Alabama plucked him out of the west to be its coach. Never mind that he blew that chance. The fact is, he was good enough to coach at Alabama.

And expect the Miners to be well coached. He knows the passing game as well as anyone in the business. Petrino said as much Monday when he gave credit to Price for teaching him how to coach quarterbacks during two stints on his staff, one as a grad assistant and then as a wide receivers/tight ends coach at Weber State.

Arkansas defensive coordinator Willy Robinson sees the similarities between the Petrino style and the Price way of coaching offense. He noted the close resemblance to the play-action stuff used by both coaches after practice Wednesday.

"Those play-action routes are like ours," Robinson said. "I think they both like to set up the pass with the run game.

"You know, everyone copies everyone else in this business. I do see that Coach Price and Coach Petrino run what they believe in the most. What they do that's like us, the skill position players are very good at catching the ball."

Price is more into trick plays than Petrino. Robinson has put the Hogs through what UTEP does as far as trickery this week, but he knows it's business as usual. The first order of business is to stop the run and make the Miners one dimensional. That part of defense doesn't ever change.

"They do a good job of mixing it up, but they will run it and they try to keep you off balance with some read option and the counters," Robinson said. "You have to stop the run first."

To do that, you better get lined up right. Alignment and angles are so important against UTEP's scheme.

"They give you more looks as far as different wide receiver sets than anyone," Robinson said. "They put pressure on you there."

Arkansas strong safety Rudell Crim sees the similar nature of the routes.

"When we got into the scout team work, a lot of it was what we see every day in seven-on-seven," Crim said. "You recognize when you see the one receiver make a certain move, the vertical from the two receiver is what's coming. Or things like that. It's the combination of routes that are just like ours in certain situations. You know they are trying to do a lot of the same things as us."

Robinson doesn't know Price, except by reputation. Price complimented Robinson earlier in the week. They do know a lot of the same folks in the coaching business.

"The people we are associated with are all northwest people," Robinson said. "I know he knows the guys I worked for, Jim Sweeney and Dennis Erickson. Mike is one of the good guys in the business. What I know about him is that he's developed winners where no one else could."

Robinson knows the Miners won't be easy to stop. You don't stone them, you just try to make enough plays to keep them out of the end zone. They will hit some plays on the Hogs because of their balance.

The Miners have given up only 11 sacks. But when teams have gotten to the UTEP quarterback, he's still hung tough and made plays.

"His release is very quick," Robinson said. "He doesn't get rattled even when people are on top of him.

"This is very much a passing team. But they can do a lot of things."

You get the idea that the Arkansas coaches are glad Price (and his style) is not at Alabama -- or anywhere else he could get his hands on some truly great talent. It might not be much fun to play that team.

As it is, the Hogs will have an edge in talent, especially in the offensive and defensive lines. The job of the Arkansas coaches is to make sure that Price doesn't scheme an edge. He's done it before and he'll do it again. The best situation is when you have the coaching and the players. As every day passes, that's what I see at Arkansas.

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