Alabama at Arkansas: Roll Tape

FAYETTEVILLE — Around 1,000 tapes are being stored in a backroom and in a closet at the end of a hallway inside the Broyles Center.

The tapes date back to the early 1990s, and there is no reason for them to be thrown out anytime soon. They're being saved so Arkansas' coaches can take a look at the past to help them devise a game plan for the future.

If Arkansas defensive coordinator Reggie Herring wants to see what plays Alabama called on first down against Louisiana-Monroe last week, he can go to the tape of the game.

If Arkansas coach Houston Nutt is curious to see how the Crimson Tide has fared against the run over the last 12 years, he can look at the footage.

And if Arkansas first-year offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn has any questions about Alabama defensive coordinator Joe Kines, team video coordinator Andy Commer can pull up tapes of when Kines served as Arkansas' interim coach in 1992.

"(Coaches) want to go back," Commer said. "Coaches may remember something about a particular coach. For instance, Coach Kines was here. They may remember something that he did when he was here."

Commer didn't want to say whether he pulled any tapes of Kines' time at Arkansas in preparation for today's 2:30 p.m. game against Alabama (3-0, 1-0 SEC) in Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

But make no mistake about it, college football coaches try to do as much homework about their upcoming opponent as possible. That means plenty of hours spent watching film and sometimes tracking down old, obscure game footage.

And the fact that Alabama has only three games worth of tape to analyze what Malzahn likes to do as an offensive coordinator could benefit the Razorbacks (2-1, 1-0).

"We haven't quite seen just everything yet," Alabama coach Mike Shula said this week. "In that regard, you'd like to be able to see more tape and maybe play (Arkansas) later on down the road."

Shula admits Alabama has footage of Arkansas quarterback Mitch Mustain from when the Crimson Tide tried signing the former Springdale High star. It's also safe to assume that Alabama has a video library as vast as Arkansas'.

"We've got tape on their quarterback from high school," Shula said. "I think if you were to (watch) that, you would evaluate just (Mustain) and the throws, not necessarily (Malzahn's) scheme, although it is unique this year with his high school coach being the coordinator. So there is some merit to that."

Several years ago, the Southeastern Conference struck a deal with its football coaches that eliminated much of the headache that once came with tracking down scouting tapes. The coaches agreed to send their SEC opponents a tape of every game they have played so far that season.

That's why 10 days before today — which would have been Sept. 13 — Arkansas and Alabama sent each other tapes of their first two games via Federal Express.

Then, each school shipped footage of its most recent game — Arkansas' 21-19 win at Vanderbilt and Alabama's 41-7 win over Louisiana-Monroe — not long after they ended last Saturday.

It's all about studying the tapes as soon as possible. The sooner Commer and his five-member staff can break down the Alabama footage for Arkansas' coaches to study, the better.

Malzahn admits the fact that he's a first-time offensive coordinator could help the Razorbacks if it makes it tougher for teams to study footage of his offense.

"Hopefully, we can use that to our advantage if there is one," Malzahn said. "I'd like to think that maybe we can do some things to hopefully keep (Alabama) off balance and have a little uncertainty."

Granted, Malzahn has heard stories of schools trying to track down tapes of when he served as Springdale High's coach. That necessarily hasn't been the case so far.

Current Springdale High coach Kevin Johnson said he expected to get phone calls from college coaches looking to gather tapes from last season so they could study Malzahn's hurry-up offense.

But as of Thursday, Johnson said he hadn't received any calls. And had any coaches contacted him, he planned to tell them to get lost.

Not as if it really matters that much, anyway.

"It's all out there. It's all open," Commer said. "When we play LSU the last game of the year, I'm going to send them all 11 games. They're going to send me all 11 games. So it's all out there."

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