State of the Hogs: Talent or Coaching?

After losing to Louisiana-Monroe and Alabama, some say the Hogs are void of coaching. Others say it's talent. publisher Clay Henry takes a look at those two issues.

This 1-2 funk that has driven Arkansas out of the top 25 needs to be explained. I'm asked about that daily. Is it lack of coaching or lack of talent?

I get amused at those that want to blame it on one thing. In truth, it's a multitude of things that causes losing. It's a delicate balance between the two. If you are really talented, coaching doesn't matter -- as much. But it always matters. Those that think Alabama and LSU are not extremely well coached are wrong. They are well coached. But they are extremely talented.

Arkansas missed Bobby Petrino at head coach. All can see that. But I don't think he can be blamed for leaving no talent at Arkansas. I don't think there are voids everywhere, just in a few places.

Yes, the talent at Arkansas is decent. Not great, but decent enough. Around the Southeastern Conference, it compares favorably to most places. Alabama and LSU are above Arkansas, but they are also above every other program in the country. All of them. Considerably better. Those two are in a league up, up and away.

Arkansas has talent. It's scattered throughout the team. There is more on offense than defense, but there are some talented defensive players, too. I like this defensive line, especially Byran Jones. Watch him play after play and you are in for a treat. He rages sideline to sideline and demands double teams. This defensive line is not better than some around the country. But it's more than adequate to play in the SEC.

What isn't good enough is the talent and overall depth at linebacker and in the secondary. That is where these Hogs are deficient. The problem is both ability and experience and for sure depth.

I thought Darius Winston was making progress in the spring and even in fall camp. But he slipped back with one bad play against Jack State. It appears it is a constant battle to coach him up and keep him playing at top level. They needed Winston to play well this year and it hasn't happened yet. Tevin Mitchel's situation is clear. He's battling back from two issues (concussion and gall bladder surgery), but he won't be ready this week. He will help at cornerback when he does come back.

I'm interested to see how Will Hines develops at cornerback. He looks like a good prospect. So does Nate Holmes. I hate that Holmes had to be moved from offense, but it's clear that his speed can make a bigger impact at cornerback right now.

I do not know what form is for this team right now. Form is what can be expected on a normal day.

What is it with Tyler Wilson? Will the fumbles continue? I'd guess not. Will he throw interceptions trying to do too much? I don't know. But the key is to win the turnover battle and limit the number of times this defense is exposed. Keep the ball. Score points. And build confidence.

It's amazing how much confidence makes a difference in a team. There was none in the six quarters that Tyler Wilson was not on the field. We'll see if some of that comes back into the team and that makes a difference against Rutgers.

But those that are thinking that this team is without talent are wrong. And those that think this staff can't coach are just as wrong. Neither is as bad as it looks right now. I know, you have to trust your eyes. But I also know that I've seen all of these guys (players and coaches) do good things.

You make your breaks, but a break here or there will do wonders for them. I know fans are going to cheer them Saturday. I know what Razorback fans are like. Yes, many are angry, but fans at any school in the country would be angry right now. I don't see that as anything but normal. They are ready to be energized by good play.

Rutgers is solid. I watched the Scarlet Knights for most of their last game, a road win at South Florida. I would say they are rugged. Yes, every time I think of this team, I think Rugged Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights play physical football. They will hit and they have a bad matchup for the Arkansas cornerbacks, with big physical wideouts.

Imagine Chris Gragg and Brandon Mitchell at wideout and that's what you'll see from Rutgers. The good news is that Arkansas sees that in practice. They will be pushed in this matchup, but they shouldn't be surprised.

Now we'll see if form improves, that the talent, the great players at Arkansas, play great. That's what assistant coach Paul Petrino asked for after practice Tuesday. Can the Hogs step up and prove that they aren't void of talent. I think they can.

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