Clint Stoerner thinks Arkansas offense is coming together ahead of Alabama trip

Clint Stoerner told the Northwest Arkansas Touchdown Club that Arkansas has gained some balance in the offense and is hitting its stride on the way to play No. 8 Alabama.

Clint Stoerner stood in front of the Northwest Arkansas Touchdown Club as a homer at times, saying "we" and "our team" as he discussed the Arkansas football team and its game this week against No. 8 Alabama.

That's not to say Stoerner isn't trying to be unbiased in his new role as an anaylyst for the SEC Network. He said he does try to offer criticism of the program, and Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, if it is warranted.

"But I hope I'm representing the program when I'm on the SEC Network," he said. "I do fight every day not to be a homer and that's hard. I am having a blast."

On the criticism part, he said it's only appropriate if he has prepared properly.

"I look at as much tape as when I was preparing for a game as a quarterback and I looked at a lot," he said. "I get the coaches tape each week and I look at it hard. I do know from talking to Coach Bielema that if I see a legitimate problem he's OK when I talk about it. I'm going to have seen that on tape and understand it."

Stoerner, the former star UA quarterback, was clear that the Razorbacks should not have lost to Toledo and Texas Tech and could have easily beaten Texas A&M. He said, "We destroyed Texas A&M and should have won. And, I know Toledo is winning their conference and Tech is much better. That doesn't matter. We should have beat 'em."

However, Stoerner has an explanation for those losses. He said the emphasis on the pass with new offensive coordinator Dan Enos, while much needed, took the Hogs away from their DNA, a physical running game. He's seen that come back in the last couple of weeks.

"They got off track," Stoerner said. "The emphasis on the passing game got them away from the things we do. But you have to got to have a passing game. But, I like it. Because in this conference, Arkansas cannot afford to be one dimensional and be succesful and compete.

"If I'm the coach, I'm not here to win eight games. I don't think you pay a coach $3 million or $4 million to win eight games. You can do that by just running the football. But I want him to win a national championship. To do that, you have to develop the passing game and that's what they set out to do by bringing in Dan Enos.

"I think there is an attempt to upgrade the passing game. They lost some receivers and are having to do it with the little Wes Welker type (in Drew Morgan) doing his thing. I think you have Drew and then it seems like they are adding the physical presence of Dominique Reed and Kenderick Edwards in the red zone.

"Now I think losing Jonathan Williams hurt more than people thought. He probably could have made a difference when you had some adversity against Toledo. But I think it was as much the emphasis on the pass.

"That's what they did from the get go with Enos starting in the spring. You have a fifth-year quarterback and a senior wide receiver and they knew they had to get better throwing.

"Our offensive line worked on pass protection for a month in August camp. You made some switches in the offensive line. The habits in camp were about the passing game. What you do in practice -- and everyone who has ever played knows that -- is what you are going to do well in a game. You just can't turn it on in game week."

But the focus on the run game has paid some dividends over the last few weeks.

"I think the game this week that people thought it might be before the Toledo game is still going to be that," he said. "I think it's going to be a great game."

The keys for Arkansas are the same for all road teams.

"You want to get off to a great start and get the crowd out of the game," Stoerner said. "You can't have turnovers, eliminate pre-snap penalties. It's about 10 things, always the same. But the key is to keep it close early by doing all the simple things.

"I think running the ball will be tough on Alabama's front and I don't think Alex Collins will get 150 for the fourth straight week, but there are some holes with Alabama. The quarterback has been inconsistent. I think you have to put some pressure on him, make him make some checks.

"The key is that the Arkansas front seven has to be good against the Alabama running game. I thought they were against Tennessee and I believe in Tennessee. Arkansas is the only team to slow down that beast (running back Jaylen Hurd). The key is the run defense. You might bring extra guys in the box and make the quarterback (Jake Coker) make some plays.

"I think Dre Greenlaw and Brooks Ellis have got to communicate better and get lined up right and get the right number in the box. If they can and the offense gets the lead, they can dictate and make it tough on Alabama."

Stoerner is high on Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen.

"I'm a Brandon Allen fan," Stoerner said. "He's a helluva quarterback."

While praising Allen and pointing out there are no wide receivers on the team like Stoerner had with Anthony Lucas and Michael Williams, it still comes down to making a play to win a game.

"You look at Matt Jones, or Casey Dick or me, it comes down to winning a big game," he said. "He's got to make a play to win it or seal the deal. He's capable of doing that and I think he can. He's had a couple of opportunities and he hasn't done that.

"But what I see is that you have to have some help. His receivers have to make a play for him. They have to beat a defensive back. I do see Brandon making the checks and throws. He's got to do that in a big situation. I think he's one of the top three quarrterbacks in the SEC with Kyle Allen and Dak Prescott. At the end of the day, I don't see Brandon as the weapons that those guys have had or some of the Arkanssas quarterbacks in the past have had.

"I don't know of a quarterback in the nation who is putting up the kind of numbers he's put up without a big-time, go-to receiver. They have more established weapons than Brandon. He may be getting some help soon. I saw Dominque Reed get his first quarterback. I know that a quarterback has to have help just to be average. He's not had a lot of help.

"Hunter Henry is a good player, but if you load the box, it's hard on the tight end. He's got a lot of defenders around him. He's not seeing zone coverage and tight ends get most of their catches against zone. You don't get that with eight or nine in the box.

"I think if you talk to anyone outside the state of Arkansas, they will tell you Brandon is one of the top three quarterbacks in the SEC. But he gets beat up in the state.

"I would not have had a chance without Anthony Lucas, Michael Williams and Joe Dean Davenport.

"The receivers here have been all speculation. No one had done it. The guy who has stepped up is Drew Morgan. I love him and his story. I would want to play with him."

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