State of the Hogs: Narrow Focus

The big picture is a narrow focus for this Arkansas team. It's can't be anything other than one play at a time for this young defense.

It's not one week at a time or even one day at a time for this Arkansas football team. The mode of operation right now needs to be one play at a time.

That's my answer when asked if the Razorbacks could possibly -- if they somehow quit losing players to injuries -- make it to a bowl game.

One conference victory shouldn't lead to speculation about bowls. And that's not where I'm going in this space. But, good things can happen if the young defensive players continue to improve. They did last week at Auburn.

Honestly, some of what happened last week was courtesy of Auburn problems, primarily at quarterback. It's hard to believe that's the right thing to say just two years after losing on the same field to the national champs.

No matter how far the Hogs have fallen, Auburn has fallen further. I listened to Gene Chizik try to explain to Auburn fans where they are right now. He promised continued evaluation of the quarterback situation and everything else.

The simple truth is that when you struggle at quarterback, nothing else matters. That Auburn team two years ago had close to 30 seniors.

Still, the Tigers would not have won without Cam Newton. That's the importance of quarterback.

That's why Arkansas still has a chance this season with Tyler Wilson at quarterback, if the young players in the back of the Arkansas defense can continue to improve. A lot is going to be on the freshmen at cornerback and linebacker over these next six games.

Will Hines, Davyon McKinney, A. J. Turner and Otha Peters are going to play a lot of football. But the key might be senior Terrell Williams at middle linebacker and how much sophomore Tevin Mitchel and junior Eric Bennett help in the secondary after coming back from injuries.

Can someone in that group emerge as a playmaker? Hines did against Auburn, as did the most experienced in the back group, outside linebacker/safety Ross Rasner.

For those youngsters, it is as simple as keeping it one play at a time. They just have to compete for one play, then add another. They have to do it in practice before they can do it in games.

Defensive coordinator Paul Haynes noted just that after the Auburn game. He wasn't worried about his young corners, Hines and McKinney. He saw them fight one play at a time in practice. They got better last week, then they took their practice to the game. When it's reduced to one play at a time, one practice at a time, the results improve.

I learned that in golf. I used to count my score, keeping track in my head. That messed me up. When I got it down to just that shot on that hole, then the next hole, amazing things happened.

The results change in dramatic fashion when you focus on that play, and then re-focus to the next. Bad plays can't ruin the next play. You make sure you understand the technique required to execute that shot or that play and nothing else.

I agree this is the most important game of the year. If you simplify it and focus on the next play, even big becomes easier.

It's about learning assignments with new players and sometimes in new spots. It's about shuffling players because of depth issues and making sure they can line up in the right call. It's just simple stuff and being consistent. It's making sure all 11 are doing the same thing on a play and that goes for offense and defense.

The wins take care of themselves. I don't know how many are left in the tank. I've seen one SEC victory against a team in a deep funk at quarterback.

At some point, Arkansas fans may look up and like what they see. I liked it a little better Saturday at Auburn. But I don't really know what I'll see Saturday night against Kentucky -- for sure not enough to talk about a bowl.

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