State of the Hogs: More Weapons

Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney has more weapons as Arkansas begins fall football practice. It's kind of like his fly box, the Arkansas depth chart looks a little fuller.

Football practice begins Monday. My golf clubs and fly rods are stored away. I got my final fill of both last weekend, losing two golf balls at Bella Vista, then one giant rainbow trout on the Norfork River.

The golf balls were gobbled up by the rough near No. 17, our first hole. The rainbow, perhaps over 25 inches long, broke off on a sharp rock near a ledge after pulling most of my fly line off a screaming reel. Losing the rainbow – and it briefly was close to my net early in a five-minute fight – was more fun.

There was some fishing talk at Bella Vista when I encountered Jim Chaney before and after he was swamped by the media before the Northwest Arkansas Razorback Club Golf Tournament. The Arkansas offensive coordinator was raving about his summer trip to the family place high in the Wind River mountains in Wyoming.

There were some brown trout that normally are tough that became easy after adding some weapons to Chaney's fly box, some elk hair caddis dries that began in my fly tying vise. They worked on some small streams around 9,000 feet in the Big Sandy Openings at the Temple Creek Summer Homes.

“Yes, the flies a friend gave me worked, when I didn't throw them in the willows,” Chaney told the media. “They worked very well.”

It's nice when you have new weapons. Chaney probably enjoyed his annual two weeks in the mountains knowing he had the right flies, but maybe was ready to come home sooner than normal with thoughts of the weapons awaiting in Fayetteville.

Make no mistake about it, Chaney has more weapons. There are more running backs, more quarterbacks, more wide receivers, more tight ends and more linemen on this Arkansas offense. Really, it's not even close to the out manned Hogs of 2013. It hurts when you lack weapons combined with learning a new system. There is more speed and just as importantly, more know how.

I've heard rave reports about the new wide receivers, starting with the two that went through spring drills, Cody Hollister and Jared Cornelius. The summer arrivals, JoJo Robinson and Kendrick Edwards, excite the quarterbacks. And, that has gotten back to Chaney and it might be the reason he pulled out his iPad a little more than normal at the cabin.

Did he draw up some new plays to use Jonathan Williams, Alex Collins and Korliss Marshall in the same backfield?

“We do have some good tailbacks and some of them can be detached (in the slot),” Chaney said. “I have some speculation on who might can do that better than others. We've got a few days to sort that out before we play a game.”

And there are other options, with a nice assortment of tight ends led by Hunter Henry, Jeremy Sprinkle and A.J. Derby. Also, there are some thoughts on what to do with wide receiver Damon “Duwop” Mitchell, like Derby, a converted quarterback, in something exotic.

“We'd be a fool not to keep their hand (in quarterback),” Chaney said of Derby and Mitchell. “Both A.J. and Duwop like (quarterback) and there may be some things they can do, some wrinkles. I'm into keeping them happy and they can do a lot.”

Would that be the Wild Hog formation? Maybe with two or three quarterbacks out there together?

“Oh, they can both do a lot,” Chaney said. “Maybe that. We do have a bunch of options with all of these guys now.”

It starts with Brandon Allen at quarterback.

“Quarterback is an important position and Brandon has to play well for us,” Chaney said. “Like Brandon, I've seen marked improvement throughout our offense. We've got a little more depth. It's exciting to go see what they can do. I'm excited and Brandon shares the same enthusiasm.”

Chaney said he was excited to get to his summer cabin. His family has been going there for 15 years. He fished every day with his father-in-law, some days taking a fly rod, sometimes a spin rod with tiny Mepps spinners.

“We had a fish fry one night,” he said, noting the daily catch was 10 to 15 trout. “The dries did catch browns and we caught everything but brookies. I go there for two weeks and our family so looks forward to it. I go up there to get away (from football), but generally after about 10 days I'm ready to get back. I think when I'm not, that may be God's way of saying I should just fly fish and get out (of coaching).”

A win-less 2013 conference season didn't cause any thoughts in that direction.

“This is a humbling game,” Chaney said. “Every year is a learning experience. I learn a lot every year. At 52 and after 30 years in the game, I'm still learning. That's the way it's always going to be in this game.

“I will say that anytime you go through what we did last year, you want to redeem yourself. I'm excited.

“So are our players. I watched them transform right before our eyes this off-season. They are bigger stronger, faster and they know more football, have a better understanding of our concepts and what we call our Hog-aneese.”

Most of the reports on the offseason start with the way Allen has thrown the ball and the leadership from wideouts Keon Hatcher and Hollister. Chaney said wideout coach Michael Smith has been impressed with the way Robinson and Edwards have approached their first summer in Fayetteville.

“Michael likes the new guys and they are still all smiling,” Chaney said. “We'll know more when we start camp Monday and the bullets are flying. But we know that Brandon had a good summer leading all the workouts. And, if Brandon was there, so were Keon and Cody. I think those two were around 24/7.

“A lot of times the quarterbacks are there all the time, but seldom were any quarterbacks by themselves because Keon and Cody were right with them.”

Sounds like the offensive coordinator likes his options on the football field and on the trout streams.

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