Tuesday Grid Update, 10/7

Alabama hasn't seen much besides spread offense in five games. That changes this week with Arkansas. Does that give the Razorbacks an advantage? That's the subject in Tuesday's grid update.

Hunter Henry knows there won't be a lot of secrets about what is going to happen Saturday when Arkansas plays host to Alabama. Big people are going to collide.

"They are big on defense, but we are pretty big on offense," Henry said. "So we are going to just going to get after each other. It's no different than practice. We have drills when we line up on offense and the defense knows exactly where we are coming and we are going to still run it there. That's the way it will be in this game."

Offensive line coach Sam Pittman said all of that's true, but he said there is still some strategy involved and some of it is guess work ahead of game time.

"From looking at tape, they have hardly played their base at all," Pittman said. "In their first five games, they were almost entirely in a 4-2 look. Now, we saw them in 4-3 last year and that's what we expect. But they haven't played it yet."

Henry, the sophomore tight end, spoke the truth. Alabama's linebackers are 254, 250 and 254 in their base defense. He sees a lot of coverage from the strong safety. That's 222-pound Landon Collins.

"We've played against a lot of players with that kind of size," Henry said. "But not many teams are that big all the way across (in that area of the field). They are big at every spot."

Since Alabama has played mostly against spread teams, does Henry think that gives the Hogs -- with a tight smashmouth formation -- an advantage this week?

“I don’t think it’s a big advantage," Henry said. "They’re a great defense and they have a lot of great players over there that are big and fast. I think they’re going to adjust perfectly and we’re going to play a four-quarter ballgame.”

Pittman said the key is the way Alabama reads keys.

"They don't make mistakes on defense and they don't miss tackles," Pittman said. "They read their keys very well. You can tell they are extremely well coached to play their keys.

"Some teams, when you don't get someone blocked, they may not make the tackle. With Alabama, you don't block a guy, he makes the tackle every time, every time. It's just how it is with them. With their linebackers, they play downhill and they tackle and they can run. They get their eyes in the right spots.

"What it comes down to, you have to do what you do and do it well. At this point in the season, we aren't going to change things a lot. You are deep enough in, that everyone knows what you are going to do each week. We just have to keep doing it better."

Alabama's rushing defense allows just 64 yards per game, but Pittman said the Hogs expect to run the ball.

"They are pretty good, but we hope our backs break some tackles," he said. "They are big up front, but we think we can move them a little bit."

The Hogs have been smacked 52-0 the last two years by the Crimson Tide. Pittman said that has not been talked about the last two weeks as preparation overlapped an open week.

"I'm sure the kids understand they got the heck beat out of them last year," he said. "But they also know that we aren't nearly close to what we were last year when we played them.

"I think we are practicing well. We had a great practice Sunday night and the one today was very good, too. They are excited to play the game."

Pittman is excited, too. He was pursued by Alabama coach Nick Saban two years ago when the offensive line job came open.

"It's a big deal to play them," Pittman said. "Coach Saban is a legend, but I guess you don't say that about someone still coaching. But it's a big game to go against their team. But I don't think our players see any mystique about the game. They are over that and look forward to the challenge."

Wide receiver coach Michael Smith has followed many Alabama players since his days recruiting Louisiana with a previous staff. And, he knows that the coaching matchup pits him specifically against Saban, since the Alabama head coach works closely with the cornerbacks.

“They have a lot of really good players," Smith said. "I had recruited Landon Collins and know him well. And, wee played against a lot of those guys last year. I know Coach Saban coaches the corners so I know those guys are going to be up for the challenge. They’re going to come in here and try to disrupt us so I’ve been challenging my guys. They’re going to be ready to play and we have to be ready to play.”

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