Sam Pittman wasn't surprised when he looked at tape of Rutgers. There they were, those long, lean defensive linemen that he was accustomed to seeing with a Greg Schiano coached team during his time at North Carolina.
"I played against Rutgers three straight years at another school," said Pittman, the Arkansas offensive line coach. "And, they were always quicker and faster than what you thought by watching tape.
"They are fast and really quick. Greg Schiano found them in New Jersey in recruiting and so has Kyle Flood from what I've seen. They can really run you down."
That's a concern since the Razorbacks have utilized the toss sweep and other outside plays in the first three games. Pittman said after practice Tuesday night that the Hogs have to do a better job of finishing blocks.
"We worked on that today," Pittman said. "We have to work hard on our releases, getting the proper angles to get those fast guys."
No one in the interview room wanted to talk about the key aspect of this game, the injured Razorbacks. Whether or not quarterback Brandon Allen or offensive tackles Grady Ollison and David Hurd could play this week was a taboo topic.
"I defer to the head ball coach," said Jim Chaney, quarterbacks coach. "He can talk about who gets reps."
Most suspect the Hogs are preparing AJ Derby to play for Allen, who missed the last three quarters against Southern Miss with what head coach Bret Bielema described as a "shoulder bruise." Chaney said he's fine with Derby.
"AJ has a wonderful feel for the game," Chaney said. "He gets it. He knows that if you see 10 guys on one side and one on the other, you go away from the 10. He's improved his throwing motion since he's been here.
"I trust him. I feel confident with him."
Pittman wouldn't say if Hurd and Ollison, the starters through three games, will be ready by game time. He said the challenge is to get freshman Denver Kirkland and Dan Skipper prepared either way.
"We'll see what (Hurd and Ollison) can do tomorrow," Pittman said. "I don't get into the injuries. You just try to get everyone as ready as you can. We are working to get Kirkland and Skipper a little more prepared and we'll see what the other two can do."
The Hogs worked inside Walker Pavilion in an attempt to prepare for crowd noise.
"It was loud," Chaney said. "We always do a little of that when we go on the road. I do think crowd noise will be a major issue Saturday. But we always dabble with that anytime you go on the road. It didn't seem to bother them. It probably bothered me a little because I'm not sure anyone could hear me."
Chaney said while some worried about Derby last week as he took over for Allen, he worried about other things aside from quarterback play.
"To be honest, there are things that bothered me more," he said. "One of the issues is ball security. If you are going to be a downhill running team, ball security is a big issue. And, I worry about situational things, like converting third-and-short when you are backed up. We didn't get it one time last week.
"If you don't get third-and-short coming off your own goal line, there's a good chance you are about to give up some points.
"It's about who we are and who we are trying to be, that downhill running team. You have to make those."
Tight end Austin Tate said he felt great at practice. Barry Lunney, his coach, said it was good to have the Harrison senior playing instead of coaching.
"He's one of the players who has played a lot of football and it will be good to have him this week as we go on the road," Lunney said. "He's been helping me coach the last few weeks and he's probably coached too much. It's good to have him playing."
Tate sounded excited after practice.
"I thought I've been ready for a couple of weeks," He said. "I thought I was ready when the doctors, the guys who get paid to know, were wanting me to wait a little longer. So here I am ready so they were right and I was wrong. I was just a little anxious to get back out there and it felt really great today."
Pittman said it was a great practice.
"I think our guys had fun today," Pittman said. "Our guys were flying around. It was spirited. You guys ask about quarterbacks. We've got good quarterbacks. I think it will be fun no matter who it is."
Pittman said there were some points of emphasis after the grading of the Southern Miss tape.
"One of the things we talked about and then worked on was some things as far as defensive line movement," he said. "But we probably made more out of that than we needed to in the first half last week. There wasn't as much movement as we made it out to be. We fixed that at halftime, but (players) probably made some of that up (on the sideline). There wasn't as much there."
Some might figure this is a battle between offensive lines. Both teams feature downhill running. Could it be an old-fashioned slobber knocker?
"I hope so," Pittman said. "That's our style. We like that kind of game. We like to hold the ball, like we've done so far in the fourth quarter. Our mentality is that we are going to wear you down."
Center Travis Swanson said he worked hard on consistency with his shotgun snaps Tuesday. There was an errant snap with Derby.
"I tried to get that fixed on my end," he said. "Every quarterback is different and we got some work together today. I think that's good now."
Swanson saw the tape of the Rutgers front and the speed was evident.
"All I can say is that every defense has a strength and a soft spot," he said. "We just have to find the soft spot each week. They are very good, though. And, very fast."
Tate said he saw some similarities with the way Southern Miss played, at least in strategy.
"There is some carry over," Tate said.
Swanson added, "That's the good part, playing a style like this in back-to-back weeks. So the schedule worked out for us."
Tate said the Hogs know the edge is important, something that the tight ends take pride in establishing.
"We can't go away from our go-to plays," Tate said. "We can't do that just because the other defense is fast. We just have to be smarter and better in how we execute it and keep that in our game plan."
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