State of the Hogs: For Starters

The best coaches get the best players on the field. Bobby Petrino did just that in the opener.

The essence of coaching is to get the best players on the field. Bobby Petrino did that with his starting lineup everywhere I looked in the season opener.

The defense opened the game in a 5-2 set with three defensive tackles: Robert Thomas, DeQuinta Jones and Byran Jones. Ends Jake Bequette and Tenarius Wright (and sometimes Chris Smith) flanked those fine SEC tackles. I saw the wow factor in that group.

The offense went non-traditional with five wide receivers: Joe Adams, Julian Horton, Cobi Hamilton, Greg Childs and Jarius Wright.

The same trend was obvious when the Hogs forced the first of eight Missouri State punts. Petrino went with both Adams and Marquel Wade, a fantastic understudy, as the twin return specialists. Then, the Missouri State punter made the mistake of averaging almost 46 yards per punt, so that all of them were returnable — for 188 yards.

Childs had a simple explanation for that five wide look.

"They can't hold everybody," Childs said. "We have a lot of receivers, a lot of athletes. I'm not sure anyone has as many as we do and Coach Petrino wanted to get us all out there."

Jarius Wright called it his "favorite formation. Our coaches like it, too. I think when we get to the end of the season we are going to say that it was a formation that was good to us."

This is no different than any other Petrino offense. The Hogs can throw and catch with the best anywhere. They've got a lot of polish in the passing game already.

It's easy to point to the lack of similar polish in the running game. Perhaps that's just the nature of a Petrino offense. He's going to always make sure that enough time is spent getting the passing game going. The running game will come. Petrino emphasizes it will take all 11 to get the running game up to speed. Jarius Wright noted the blocking by the wideouts must improve.

"There were plays where we got our man, but there were a lot more that we didn't block the last man," Wright said. "We know it's going to take all of us to get our running game just right. We do take pride in making that last block. We are working on it every day."

The best news is that the Hogs have more than just a lot of receivers. They've got plenty of defensive tackles. I don't remember an Arkansas team that trotted out three any better looking than that starting group of Thomas, Jones and Jones.

It's going to be a lot more fun to play linebacker behind these three. And it's going to be more fun to play defensive end.

Along those lines, does anyone remember an early game when the starting free safety had such an easy night? Tramain Thomas was like the Maytag repairman in the opener. Thomas had one assist and one solo for a total of two tackles.

Thomas can make plays at free safety. He does it daily against the best wideout group in the country. He'll be ready when it's time.

Until then, Thomas will be happy to direct traffic in front of him and watch all those good looking athletes cage everything close to the line of scrimmage.

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