State of the Hogs: What's a Run Tag?

It's time to clear up a few questions about the 2015 Arkansas football team, like what is a run tag? Is Kody Walker a major cog in the running game? And, who is Howie Stettmeier? Hawgs Illustrated publisher Clay Henry tackled them all in this commentary.

There's been a common question about Arkansas football this summer after players discussed the new Dan Enos offense during spring drills and in summer media blitzes like SEC Media Days. What is a run tag?

Quarterback Brandon Allen mentioned it to me early in spring practice. Running back Jonathan Williams brought it up a couple of days later. Both were in love with the tweak to the offense from Enos, the new playcaller and quarterbacks coach added by head coach Bret Bielema in the offense.

One of the main challenges Bielema gave his new coordinator was to upgrade the passing game. The obvious thought, defenses were packing the box against the potent Arkansas running game. That may be tougher to do successfully after Enos gave the quarterbacks the run tags.

I have explained it several times. I was convinced that they were something akin to a double play called in the huddle, kind of a preset audible that could offset an over shifted defense. I figured it was time to double check with Allen after practice Thursday.

I was pretty close. It wasn't exactly an audible, but a pass play set with a particular run to get the Hogs out of a stacked look.

“It was in the Central Michigan offense that Coach Enos brought to us,” Allen said. “You could see that it got them out of some situations in certain plays. It's just a pass play tagged to the run.”

And, there was confirmation that the backs love them, even though they are checks out of running plays.

“Oh, they do,” Allen said. “They know that they are going to get some passes out of them and so are the wide receivers. It just is a way to keep a defense from putting nine in the box against us.”

It's the very reason that Williams thinks that if defenses load the box, Allen will “pass for 350 yards. I know he will. We've got those run tags.”

The Hogs are billed as a power offense. This might be the year they look like a balanced offense. Yes, they are still going to pound with that big offensive line and a talented and deep set of running backs.

Kody Walker is going to be a big part of that set of running backs. I'm reminded of a conversation I had last spring with Dean Campbell, now a high school coach in Austin, Texas. He was on Bobby Petrino's operational staff for two years, helping with recruiting.

I was checking on Campbell. Among the questions he had for me about what was going on with the Hogs, where did Walker fit in the 2015 plans. He thought he would be a star when the Hogs were recruiting him as a young player at Jefferson City, Mo. Campbell is not surprised that Walker is about to help in a bigger way.

I write about Walker because it's exactly the kind of pass that he fumbled at the goal line against Alabama last year that can make a big difference to this offense in 2015. I expect more of that kind of options for Allen. I bet Walker and the rest of the backs score on those plays this season.

I've had questions about Walker's role after the spring when Bielema listed him as even with Alex Collins on the depth chart at running back. There was more talk about Walker when the NCAA gave him a sixth year of eligibility. He's now a junior.

Enos laughs about the way the backs begged for passes last spring after they saw the offense. Walker, Collins and Walker were constantly in his ear for those kind of calls.

“They tell me they can catch it,” Enos said in the spring. “We are going to find out because we will throw to them.”

Everyone raved about Dominique Reed's speed after practice Thursday. You could see it in the early drills that were open to the media. He's a skinny dude. But in the modern lingo reserved for a difference maker warranted high praise, he does appear to be a dude.

I am guessing there might be a run tag with Reed's number on it, if that's how they do it. For those prepared to memorize numbers, Reed has 87.

Allen mentioned Reed's ability to pick up the offense on Thursday. He also noted that there are nine tight ends in camp as part of the NCAA's allotment of 105 before the start of class.

I can never remember there being nine tight ends on any Arkansas roster. The numbers of the three scholarship freshmen are worth learning. That's Austin Cantrell (44), Will Gragg (11) and C.J. O'Grady (15).

If they learn it quickly, maybe they get on the run tags, too. It's a given that returning tight ends Hunter Henry, Jeremy Sprinkle and Alex Voelzke are part of the action. The other tight ends on the 105 are Jack Kraus, Anthony Antwine and Howie Stettmeier.

Maybe Stettmeier replaces run tags as the new question of the day on Arkansas football. The 6-4, 242-pounder may be the sleeper in the 105. He was home schooled before playing one year at Rogers Heritage. Bret Bielema's walk-on program may pay dividends. I'm betting on it, along with the run tags.

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