Arkansas' SwagJo Offense Gears Up For Ole Miss' Landshark Defense

Arkansas' offense is feeling pretty good about itself, but knows it faces a huge challenge on Saturday with Ole Miss' opportunistic Landshark defense.

An Arkansas offense line who has its SwagJo back will face a defense with the ability to take it right back from them on Saturday.

That’s the setup when the visiting Razorbacks (4-4, 2-2) travel to Oxford to face Ole Miss (7-2, 4-1) in a 2:30 p.m. game that will be nationally televised by CBS.

SwagJo is a term coined by Arkansas offensive line coach Sam Pittman.

“We got our mojo back, we got our swag back,” Arkansas sophomore offensive lineman Frank Ragnow said Tuesday after practice. “The first couple of games we kind of lost our identity of who we are - a big, physical offensive line.

“I think we kind of got to the point to where we were thinking too much, trying to be too perfect and everything and putting too much pressure on ourselves.

“Coach Pittman talks about SwagJo - mojo and swag combined - and we are starting to get our chemistry together and that’s exciting.” 

Pittman is cautiously optimistic that is the case.

“I don’t know if we have or not, but we have been having fun,” Pittman said. “It has been fun the last six weeks and we are rushing for over 200 in that span in five of the six games and doing a pretty good job of protecting.

“We have a long way to go, but we are playing about what people figured we might play, including us. 

“We are trying to get it back, but this is the SEC, you can’t swag too much because the next one is Ole Miss and then the next one is LSU and then Mississippi State. They are all good.

“But you do have to feel good about yourself I think before you can play well and right now I think we feel good about how we are playing and we will figure it out.

“I think we do have some confidence, but we know we are getting ready to play a really good D-line.”

Ole Miss’ defense - which is dubbed Landshark - has held three of its foes without a touchdown this season, leads the league with 12 interceptions and is tied for second with 17 takeaways.

They are indeed a formidable challenge according to Ragnow, including a monster in junior defensive end Robert Nkemdiche (6-4, 296), expected to be a top five NFL draft pick in 2016.

“Obviously Nkemdiche is as talented as it gets,” Ragnow said. “They are a defense that plays really hard and that’s what jumps out to you. We have got to match their intensity because they are a very intense defense…They get a lot of takeaways also.”

Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen knows his offense can’t be offering up any takeaways if the Razorbacks are to have a chance to win this Saturday.

“They are really good at what they do,” Allen said. “They mix up coverages and sprinkle different things in there to keep you off-balance.

“They are a physical group that likes to hit and they have been a solid defense. They are leading the SEC in takeaways this year so we need to do a good job of ball security and not giving them any extra opportunities on offense.

“It is one of the things that we always preach - not turnovers and things like that.”

Arkansas got injured wide receiver Jared Cornelius back last week and Cody Hollister - a junior wide receiver who was hurt just after Cornelius -  is moving toward being able to play this weekend.

“It’s nice, it’s really nice,” Allen said. “We have got some depth coming back at receiver and different guys getting a lot of work.

“Now when we have guys that might need a breather, we have guys with experience that can fill in those roles.”

Arkansas redshirt sophomore Damon Mitchell had three catches for 66 yards, including a 49-yard touchdown pass from Allen.

Mitchell, who came to Arkansas as a quarterback, has now settled in and fully embraced being a wideout.

“Coming out of high school, my biggest fear was being converted to different position,” Mitchell said. “But Coach B saw a future in me doing other things and there is no point in wasting my talent sitting behind BA on the bench when he can use me elsewhere.

“It was real hard for me, but Coach Smith said it at the first of the year - I used to be a guy that would come in and sit in the back of the room with arms crossed and not trying to hear anything.

“But to finally buy in and having a son changes your perspective on life in general. I was just like ‘I have got to provide for another life now after football’ and this sport allows the opportunity after college to earn a little money.”

Arkansas tight ends coach Barry Lunney has watched junior tight ends Hunter Henry and Jeremy Sprinkle combined to catch 39 passes for 631 yards this season.

He knows that pair will be big in the Razorbacks having offensive success against Ole Miss.

“What we do, we run the ball and the structure of their defense means we are going to get singled up with he their defensive ends during the course of the game like we do with a lot of others teams and have over the last few years," Lunney said.

“Obviously what we do is real important in the run game and we have a great challenge in front of us. They have a really good D-line that plays real physical and we will have to be ‘Game On’ Saturday and really dialed in for us to be successful at the point of attack.”

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