State of the Hogs: David Lee
David Lee can't wait to get started this spring. He likes the components for the 2007 Arkansas offense and thinks the passing game can be improved.
For instance, he looks at Peyton Hillis running comfortably in offseason drills and envisions the fullback/H-back/flanker playing a role for the Hogs similar to the one Jason Witten (Dallas Cowboys) and Dallas Clark (Indianapolis Colts) filled in the NFL.
"We had a play at Dallas we called 45 times the last two years and we completed it 35 times," said Lee, the new UA offensive coordinator. "It's one of the better underneath routes I've ever seen. We can run that with Peyton. It's awesome. You give that 230-pound fullback the ball coming down on a linebacker, it's something we are going to use more than last year."
This is Lee's third time on the offensive staff at Arkansas, and the first time he's had the reins as a legit OC. He couldn't help but recall his first day on the job in 1983 when he accepted a post on Ken Hatfield's staff as quarterback coach after Lou Holtz departed as head coach.
"Coach Broyles went to a chalk board and picked up a stick (of chalk)," he said. "I'm pretty sure he had wanted Mal Moore to help Ken coach the wishbone, but Mal wouldn't leave as quarterback coach at Notre Dame. Coach Broyles looked at me and it was as if he was still coaching. He was bigger than life. My life just stopped. He wrote two letters on the board, just T. O. and I didn't know what he was going to say.
"I thought it could have meant timeout. I just didn't know. He said, ‘Look, Lou Holtz was just here. I'll tell you one thing about his offenses. They didn't turn the ball over and he walked out."
There have been no big sessions like that this time around, but if they happened, it might be something like coach Houston Nutt walking to the board and writing "P. G. — get it fixed."
We aren't talking about the lack of a true point guard on the Arkansas team. This time around, David Lee's job is to bring the Arkansas passing game out of hibernation.
It's been pretty much a non-stop job since he was hired in early January. He's spent most of the last six weeks re-writing the passing game portion of the Arkansas offense. And while he doesn't want to eliminate any pages in an extensive running game chapter, he wants to highlight a few plays and concentrate mainly on the passing game.
"We may go back to some of those running game plays, so I'll just mark them out with a highlight pen so they'll stay in the book," Lee said. "But we are going to add a bunch on the passing game."
He's kept graduate assistant coach Jeff Norrid busy the last few weeks adding passing plays in the book through a computer program that generates the plays and prints them out.
"You don't have to draw them up any more from scratch," Lee said. "You use the computer. It's something Jon Gruden brought to the NFL a few years ago and it's a great tool. You get them in the system and then you can spit those plays out in the fall when it's time to use them. It makes it easy.
"But first you have to get them all in there. That's what we are working on. We are working a lot of hours. I don't know how many. Couldn't count them. We are getting there. I've kept Jeff covered up."
The days begin around 4 a.m. for Lee because of the offseason conditioning program. He stays late in the afternoons, too, sometimes making it to the apartment he and his wife share after dinner.
"I'm not real good about taking work home, but I've done some of that, too," Lee said. "Lately, I've been waking up really early and getting a workout in to loosen up my back before our (team offseason workouts). It's a long day, but we've got a lot to get done before spring practices in two weeks."
The challenge to start spring drills will be to see what junior quarterback Casey Dick can handle. Lee suspects he'll do well with the play-action progressions, but isn't so sure about the reads in the drop-back game.
"It's not like it was when I was running option here the last two times I was here," he said. "You knew you were going to get one coverage because they were scared of the option. Now, these defenses have six or seven coverages that you have to be able to read. You think you've got two deep safeties, but at the snap it changes and one of them comes down. That's what we are dealing with now."
Lee said he'll have to see if Dick "can handle progressions or reads. Hopefully, he can do both."
Progressions, he said, are like you see in NFL games with Peyton Manning when he reached hard on a fake of the wide, zone stretch play to the tailback, then pulls the ball back for the play-action series.
"The quarterback then checks the deep route, then the crossing route and then the back in the flat," he said. "It's progression. He's just going from one route to the next. It's one, two, three.
"The read is exactly what it says. You look at the coverage. Can we protect while he makes those reads? That's the pro package. The key is can you process all of that information."
CLAY HENRY IS THE PUBLISHER OF HAWGS ILLUSTRATED, A STEPHENS MEDIA GROUP PUBLICATION. HIS COLUMN APPEARS EACH FRIDAY. E-MAIL: CLAY@NWAONLINE.NET
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