State of the Hogs: Tackle Football

If you have great development at tackle, the football team is going to be successful. It's obvious that Bret Bielema has built the framework with solid prospects in the trenches for the 2015 Razorbacks.

All things being somewhat equal at quarterback, the team with the best tackles will win most football games. That line did not come from Bret Bielema, but it's probably not far from the core beliefs of the Arkansas coach.

It came from one of the game's great defensive coaches, Tennessee's Robert Neyland. I believe it to be a fundamental truth. Neyland's Vols blanked every regular season foe in 1939.

I would have rated it almost impossible to record even one SEC shutout in a season before I watched the Razorbacks blank both LSU and Ole Miss in back-to-back games last November. There could have been another in the bowl game against Texas. The Longhorns made just 59 yards in a 31-7 loss.

For the record, I love the Arkansas tackles this season. Defensively, I'll lump in the defensive ends, many with the versatility to move inside to play tackle in passing situations.

The two inside posts in the defensive front are outstanding with Taiwan Johnson and Froholdt at the all important “three technique” and DeMarcus Hodge and Bijhon Jackson at nose. On the outside, the Hogs have JaMichael Winston, Tevin Beanum, Deatrich Wise, Jeremiah Ledbetter and Mitch Loewen.

Without question, I am excited about the offensive tackles, too. Denver Kirkland has finally shifted to his most natural position, the all-important left tackle to protect quarterback Brandon Allen's blind side. Dan Skipper seems like a better fit at right tackle and is finally healthy for his junior season. I like redshirt freshman Brian Wallace as a backup at right tackle with Skipper capable of popping over to his old spot on the left side in a pinch.

All of those linemen – not all exactly tackles – are the reason I love the potential of this Arkansas team. Allen will be the beneficiary. As the fundamental truth states, you have to be at least in the ball park at quarterback for the tackles to give you an advantage. Arkansas has that with Allen.

I expect a solid if not great season from Allen. His teammates and coaches have great confidence in his ability and he's blossomed under Dan Enos, the new quarterback coach and play caller. Enos has inherited a senior quarterback in coaching moves before and was the perfect hire by Bielema.

The key to playing great defense is not to give up the big play. When you can rush the passer – and these Hogs can – it makes it easier for the secondary. I don't think there will be a lot of big plays given up by this back end.

And, if you don't put your defense at risk with a lot of offensive mistakes (turnovers), it's tough to score a lot of points on any defense. That's what happened at the end of last season.

I think fumbles will disappear with the arrival of Jemal Singleton as running backs coach. They were non existent in the spring. I liked Singleton in the spring, but I like him even more after learning he's an ace fly fisher. With over a decade at Colorado as player and coach, I should have suspected as much.

What I think about these Arkansas tackles is not suspicion. We are stepping into an era of Arkansas football that will be solid there year after year. It's the reason why Bielema said the program will be built to last.

It sounded too simple when I talked to Hayden Fry on the day Bielema was introduced as coach. The old Iowa coach just stated what to him was the obvious, “Bret will have good linemen.” And, he does.

It's not simple. It is a systematic approach that calls for development and detail. Putting the offensive linemen in the first class seating of the plane for road trips is one of those details. And, it goes on and on with Ben Herbert's strength program.

Getting a tackle ready to play in the SEC isn't easy. Perhaps they need developmental time at offensive guard. It worked for Kirkland and Skipper.

I laughed the other day when Bielema talked about Singleton's under graduate background at Air Force. Singleton took a class in rocket science.

Bielema is not building a rocket. But he does know the detail it takes to build a football team and it started with a great foundation in the lines. It is about to pay great dividends.

Hawgs Daily Top Stories